From Jeongseong to "three-minute care": Healthcare transitions in North Korea and the cultural adjustment of North Korean refugee doctors in South Korea

Young Su Park, Hae Won Lee, Sang Min Park

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This study explores the sociocultural challenges of North Korean refugee physicians in adjusting to the capitalistic South Korean healthcare system, focusing on how they establish their identities as professionals in transitional contexts. The older generation of refugee doctors came under the influence of the jeongseong undong (Devotion Movement) in North Korea, which directed physicians to care for patients with sacrificial sincerity. However, prolonged economic hardship fundamentally transformed the patientdoctor relationship in North Korea. After the breakdown of the North Korean healthcare system, doctors were only able to make a bare living. Those who were older and of higherrank in medical society suffered more despair and hardship, which resulted in their initial resistance to adjustment in South Korean society. In the process of reconstructing professional identities, older physicians pursued an integrated adjustment which was legacies of the Devotion Movement. In contrast, the younger generation of North Korean refugee physicians strived to assimilate into the South Korean medical society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-144
Number of pages27
JournalKorea Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Cultural adjustment
  • Informal economy
  • Jangmadang (black market)
  • Jeongseong undong (Devotion Movement)
  • North Korea
  • Post-socialist healthcare transition
  • Refugee physician

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