Women account for over eighty percent of recent North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea, yet there is dearth of gender-based research. Given the speed with which the dialogue on denuclearization with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) has progressed since 2017, there is a surprising gap in research on possible health threats. If sanctions are eased, interactions with these previously isolated people will increase leading to potential health problems. This article reviews studies published since 2000 to understand physical and mental health faced in DPRK, among North Korean defectors to South Korea, and to provide policy recommendations. A content analysis of ninety studies found that mental health challenges are severe for North Korean defectors, and that women suffer differently than men during defection and its aftermath. We recommend a more nuanced and gendered approach for future research in order to devise tangible solutions to improve the health of North Koreans in general, and defector women and children in particular.
- Child health
- Mental health
- North Korea
- North Korean defectors
- Women’s and children’s health