Together but Separate: Relationships and Boundaries between North and South Koreans in Multiethnic Britain

Kim, Jihye orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4254-7114 (2023) Together but Separate: Relationships and Boundaries between North and South Koreans in Multiethnic Britain. European Journal of Korean Studies (EJKS), 22 (2).

[thumbnail of VOR]
PDF (VOR) - Published Version

Official URL:


The United Kingdom hosts the largest North Korean immigrant community in Europe, and the majority have settled in New Malden, London’s Koreatown. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this study examines the relationships North Korean immigrants have established with their South Korean counterparts in the course of secondary migration from South Korea to the UK, focusing on how the shift from a majority–minority relationship between the two communities in ethnic-hierarchical South Korea to a minority–minority relationship in multiethnic Britain has influenced the North Koreans’ perceptions of and boundaries with South Koreans. Faced with language barriers and many other disadvantages in the host society, North Korean immigrants in the UK make pragmatic use of commonalities they share with their South Korean counterparts as well as of previous experiences and skills learned in South Korea. However, instead of fully assimilating into the South Korean immigrant community, they freely acknowledge the differences in the post-partition era, resulting in an enduring invisible boundary between the two groups. In doing so, they perceive that the two groups are in a relatively equal position as respective minorities vis-à-vis broader society, and the sense of ethnic stratification and hierarchy between them is largely dissolved. This study thus offers insights into how ethnic relations are contingent on social contexts and how migrants as transnational agents use and navigate their experiences, resources, and relationships to position themselves in the host society and shape their everyday life practices in a complex migration context.

Repository Staff Only: item control page