Methods: Seven NK defector mothers were recruited from one of the largest community-based organizations that serve NK defectors in South Korea. As the organization has standing relationships with the participants, it was helpful to get their participation in this study.
Data were collected from in-depth interviews with seven NK defector mothers. Data collection took the form of face-to-face interviews based on semi-structured questionnaires. The interviews, which were conducted in Korean, lasted between 60 and 80 minutes, were audio-taped, and transcribed verbatim.
This study employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore how NK defector mothers make sense of and experience the world. Transcripts were analyzed manually for recurrent, emerging themes using a cyclical process of IPA. The analysis for this study comprised of three different stages: first, identifying preliminary themes through reading and rereading each transcript; second, listing the emerging themes and grouping them together as clusters; and third, producing a master list and a table of the themes.
Findings: From the analysis of the group of seven NK defector mothers, three major themes and seven sub-themes were presented:
- Cultural values in parenting
- Parental control
- Strong emphasis on education
- Parenting style
- Pre-migration/traditional parenting style
- Post-migration parenting style
- Combined (pre- and post-migration) parenting style
- Possessed strengths
- Access to resources
- Ability to utilize social networks and social support
Findings indicated that NK defector mothers negatively perceived their ability to fulfill parental roles and practices in a new country. Most participants expressed having felt high levels of stress and experiencing conflicts between traditional, pre-migration, and post-migration parenting practices. In particular, education emerged as a major concern for NK defector mothers since they strongly believe that educational achievement is directly linked to social mobility and a better future. NK defector mothers perceived that access to social networks and resources was critical in their parenting and children’s education.
Conclusions and Implications:
Community support and parent-directed educational programs can empower NK defector mothers and their families to find and develop new resources of social networks and support. In addition, the findings of this study may ensure culturally competent intervention programs for social work practitioners to improve current programs and policies for NK defector mothers as well as refugee mothers who share similar parenting beliefs and practices.