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A Presentation By Remi Liskow

North Korea's Immigration History to the United States


Many already know what North Korea is like: An isolated, quiet place with an opressive government. However, the main thing we often hear about that makes it unique is that it is stictly illegal to leave the country if you reside in it. People also hear of the small amount of fugitives that have managed to escape the country and make thier way to a safe place, Such as the United States or South Korea. But inside this law against immigrants resides a history that dates back to the first immigration waves to the US, which occured before North and South Korea split. This immigration led up to the late 50's, and it is rich with culture. The nation of North Korea also still has its own, unique ways of celebrating tradition.

Intro: DPRK Immigration

Immigration Cont.

Shortly after Hawaii was annexed by the US in 1898 (although it would only become a state in 1959), Immigrants from Asia began immigration to the islands. This included a modest Korean population of about 3,000. This wave of immigration occured from 1903-1910, and throughout those years the Korean population of Hawaii would steadily increase. The number increased to 7,000 before Japan took over the Korean Pennisula in 1910. This initially stopped Korean immigration to the US, as the Japanese Emipre was tyrannical and did not let immigration out of the Country, as modern North Korea would do in the future in a stricter manner.

First Wave of Korean Immigration: 1903-1910

Immigration Cont.

In 1939, The Third Reich declared war on Poland, and this caused a violent spark that lit Europe and the rest of the World on fire in a large war that we now know as World War Two. Japan was allied with the Third Reich throughout the war, fighting the United States in the Pacific Ocean. eventually, in 1945, Germany and Japan were defeated by the Allies on Poland's side and Japan was forced to concede territory. This resulted in Korea being freed from the grasp of Japan. This meant immigration was once again permitted. The number of immgrants coming from Korea to the US began increasing again. The number increased to about 10,000 before 1948, when the Soviet Union supervised the formation of the DPRK, or North Korea. As the government of this Northern nation was still being formed, some immigrants could still slip through in a small trickle stream. Meanwhile, in South Korea, where it was free, immigration was still fully permitted. in 1950, North Korea surprise attacked the South, causing a war known as the Korean war that would last for 3 years. During this time, refugees from both Koreas managed to escape. After 1953, it became fully illegal for North Korean immigrants to leave.

Second Wave of (now) North Korean Immigration: 1945-1953

To Traditions

After the end of the conflict era of the Korean War, Kim Il-Sung, the founder of North Korea, now had full sovereignty over the country. He and his tyranicall government regime established many strict laws, and one of the laws in place was to prevent any immigration out of the country. This prevented any attempts at leaving the country, even if they were only temporary, like a vacation. Other laws also made it very hard to live a quality life in the country, which made people want to live. Throughout the years, there have been numerous attempts to escape the country. This comes at high risk, as the government of the DPRK severely punishes any attempts of escape, and even if you manage escape, your family will be tortured and most likely killed on your behalf. This is there are only about 40,000 recorded escapes in history, and it continuously becomes more difficult as technology improves. hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been punished severely since the foundation of the country in 1948. Now, during 2023, only a small number DPRK citizens defect to the United States per year. Many go to South Korea, as they can speak the language there and it is closer.

North KoreanImmigration from 1953-2023

To Religion

North Korean traditions and beliefs are almost always extremely government-centered. School in North Korea focuses on teaching children the superiority of the DPRK goverment, and how all othe nations are either supportive or annoying. All citizens of the DPRK are to tribute the government regularly and pay their respects as muc has they can. Any failure to do this results in punishment. It is beleived that the government is the true council of gods. In North Korea, it is a tradition to pray to your local statue of Kim Il-Sung. Holidays include the birdthdays of the two late leaders (15th April, and 16th February, respectively), and Liberation Day (15th August).

Traditions, Customs and Beliefs

To Ceremonies

In North Korea, there is only oone legal religion. This religion is not recognized by any other outer nation, so North Koreans are techincally athiest. However, it is legally required that you worship Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of North Korea, as your god. You must visit his statue often to pray and give offerings like flowers. You cannot legally be any other religion in the DPRK, and doing so is a crime. However, there are beleived to be up to 150,000 citizens of North Korea that practice other religions secretely. In North Korea, you can be killed for owning a Bible, which is a severe punishement and an example of the living conditions in the country.

In North Korea, the language of Korean is spoken. Although very similar to the language spoken in South Korea, The two variations of the languages heed some different pronunciations and slight spelling differences. This is why it is easiest for Northern escapees to make their way to South Korea - the language barrier is the smallest.

Language and Religion

To Cuisine

North Korean ceremonies such as weddings and funerals are celebrated in a way that almost no other nation in the world does. In North Korea, if you are getting married or experiencing a loss and wish to have a ceremony for the event, the goverment has to overlook it. In terms of a wedding, the event is happy. Both the groom and bride come in traditional clothing and both take time to do a photoshoot, which is extremely common in North Korea. They then have a small party and they are pronounced married. After this, most of the remainder of the ceremony is spent at the Kim Il-Sung statue that is closest to the wedding, giving it offerings for sponsoring the joyous day. In terms of a funeral, the ceremony often does not include much talking. North Korean funerals last three days, with a brief period of time each day for visitations. it is common that during this time, prayers are made to Kim Il-Sung.

North KoreanCeremonies(Wedding/Funerals)

Kimchi is a popular cabbage dish originating from the Korean Region of Eastern Asia. It consists of cabbage, various peppers, spices, sauces, and vegetables. to commemorate it for its popularity in North Korea, I brought in a portion of Kimchi.Warning!-Kimchi is somewhat spicy. -The Kimchi is made in a factory with soy sauce.Kimchi is gluten-free and vegan.


To Impact

Although North Korea is a harsh place when you measure it by its government, North Korean cuisine is considered high end and delectable. One of the most famous foods that came out of North Korea is Naengmyeon (also known as Pyongyang Cold Noodles) which is a noodle dish served in cold soup and ranging spices. Rice is common food in North Korea, but one of the staples of general Korean food is Kimchi.


To Video Links

In the early 1900's, Korean immigrants coming to Hawaii were given jobs on various farms that would beneifit the US economy. Throughout the early to mid 1900's, Koreans found agricultural jobs throughout the West Coast and Midwest. After the split of the Koreas in 1948 and the Korean War in 1950, North Koreans were agains the United States for years as the war went on. However, after the completion of the war, many defects would escpae North Korea to join free societies such as South Korea or the United States. Although not many North Korean defects came to the United states, only about 1,000 after the split and the war, they provided a new culture and showed the US what it was like to live in a place like North Korea, ruled by ruthless dictators. it shined new light and gave us more information.

Impact of North Korean Immigrants on US Society

Video Links Cont.

To Credits

Thank you for listening!!!


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