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Human rights activism among North Korean refugees in the UK: Hope for a democratic future?

Lim, H., 2021. Human rights activism among North Korean refugees in the UK: Hope for a democratic future? Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 6, 277-286.

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DOI: 10.1007/s41134-021-00183-z


Social work plays a crucial role in defending the human rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees from systems of oppression. This paper explores the meanings and challenges of human rights activism and its driving forces among North Korean refugees in the UK. The data are drawn from life history interviews with ten participants, together with two activists’ public speeches. The findings suggest that gaining awareness of human rights after their escape had significant implications for the activists, giving meaning to their life and sparking on their activism. Simultaneously, they expressed misconceptions and criticisms from other fellow North Korean refugees as one of the greatest difficulties they encountered in their work. I argue that to overcome such challenges human rights activism requires altruism and a creative imagination that envisions better future lives for other North Korean people. Based on this, I propose Altruistic Political Imagination (API) as a concept that captures North Korean activists’ experiences, built on Passy’s (2001) notion of political altruism, to put emphasis on the visionary aspect of their activism. I maintain that the concept of API potentially has a wider appeal to those activists who face similar situations to North Korean activists, as well as social work practitioners who work with forced migrants and/or marginalised communities.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Funded by: Trafficking of North Korean Female Defectors. Funded by Voices of the Secret State: Human Rights Activism among North Korean Defectors in the UK
Uncontrolled Keywords:altruism; Altruistic Political Imagination; human rights activism; imagination; North Korean refugees
Group:Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
ID Code:35618
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:09 Jun 2021 14:07
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:27


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