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2016 Korea-Michigan Human Rights Research Fellows

Jamie Forgacs, BA International Studies; BA Asian Studies; Honors ‘17
Research Focus:
How Trauma Experiences of North Koreans who Escaped to South Korea Are Addressed by South Korea Humanitarian Organizations and Government Agencies

My passion for Korean Studies and human rights issues lead me to double major in Korean and International Studies at the University of Michigan. This passion inspired me to pursue the Korea-Michigan Human Rights Research Fellowship through the University of Michigan Human Rights Program and Social Sciences Korea at Sungkyunkwan University to study and research abroad in South Korea. My research project, with guidance from the Social Science Korea Human Rights Forum, focused on trauma experiences of North Koreans who escaped to South Korea, specifically how that trauma was addressed improperly by humanitarian organizations and government agencies in South Korea.

The ramifications of this issue are far greater than my summer research; the importance of it lies beyond the substantial population of refugees already in South Korea, but also in the uncertainty of the two Koreas. If North Korea is eventually absorbed by South Korea, then effective programs must be firmly in place. If reunification does not occur for many years, and even if it never occurs, provisions still must be made to better incorporate North Korean refugees into society so that their needs are met and they can access all the rights and privileges of citizenship.

Reunification may not occur during my lifetime, but as I work towards a career in Korean and International Studies with a special interest in human rights, this research not only augmented my knowledge and competency in those areas but also allowed me to open dialogue leading to better care for those North Koreans who are struggling to adjust to their new lives.

Lily Wang, BA International Studies; BA Psychology ‘17
Research Focus:
North Korean Refugee Crisis and South Korea’s Role in the Humanitarian Crisis

Human rights is a topic that I have been increasingly drawn to in my years as an undergraduate student. As a student double majoring in International Studies and Psychology and minoring in Law, Justice, and Social Change, I have been exposed to a wide range of academic studies. The Korea-Michigan Human Rights Research Fellowship was a fantastic opportunity to further my studies in human rights, and I was able to gain exposure to resources and faculty that I would not normally have the opportunity to engage with.

In my time in Seoul, South Korea, I researched human rights in the context of North Korean refugee rights. I explored South Korea’s role in this humanitarian crisis, both diplomatically and on its domestic front. The North Korean refugee crisis is one of the most egregious humanitarian issues in the recent past, yet so little is commonly known about its refugee situation. This project is something that I hope to share with peers and others who have interest in the topic. Researching this topic in the heart of South Korea with the abundant resources that the University of Michigan Human Rights Program and Social Science Korea Human Rights Forum at Sungkyunkwan University provided was an amazing opportunity and honor.