Healthcare access challenges facing six african refugee mothers in South Korea: A qualitative multiple-case study

Min Sun Kim, In Gyu Song, Ah Reum An, Kyae Hyung Kim, Ji Hoon Sohn, Sei Won Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Following legal reform in 2013, the annual number of asylum seekers entering South Korea has increased from 1,143 in 2012 to 5,711 in 2015. We interviewed six African refugee mothers of young children regarding their health needs and barriers to access maternal child health services. Methods: We recruited mothers who had visited a clinic for immigrants between July 2013 and August 2015. Participants were African refugee women, aged over 18 years, who had given birth in Korea within the previous 5 years and had come to Korea over a year before recruitment. Interview questions examined participants’ experiences in pregnancy and childbirth and concerns regarding their child’s health status. Initial data analysis involved all researchers’ immersion in the entire collection of transcripts. We then noted recurrent topics and themes and identified similar issues. Results: At the time of giving birth, 5 participants were asylum seekers and one had undocumented status. The following barriers impeded their access to maternal child healthcare: socioeconomic factors (unstable social identity, low economic status, difficulty obtaining health insurance), language barriers (lack of linguistically appropriate health information, limited access to translation services), and cultural barriers (religious and cultural differences). Weak social support also hindered access to healthcare soon after migration; however, social links with the community emerged as a key coping strategy following settlement. Conclusion: We identified barriers to maternal and child healthcare and coping strategies among African refugee mothers in Korea. Future research should assess refugees’ health status and improve health access and literacy among refugee mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalKorean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Health services accessibility
  • Infant
  • Korea
  • Parturition
  • Refugees

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