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Psychiatry Investig. 2012 Sep;9(3):217-22. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

The psychological problems of north korean adolescent refugees living in South Korea.

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Gyeonggi Provincial Mental Health Center, Suwon, Republic of Korea.



As the number of North Korean adolescent refugees drastically increased in South Korea, there is a growing interest in them. Our study was conducted to evaluate the mental health of the North Korean adolescent refugees residing in South Korea.


The subjects of this study were 102 North Korean adolescent refugees in Hangyeore middle and high School, the public educational institution for the North Korean adolescent refugees residing in South Korea, and 766 general adolescents in the same region. The Korean version of Child Behavior Check List (K-CBCL) standardized in South Korea was employed as the mental health evaluation tool.


The adolescent refugees group showed a significantly different score with that of the normal control group in the K-CBCL subscales for sociality (t=29.67, p=0.000), academic performance (t=17.79, p=0.000), total social function (t=35.52, p=0.000), social withdrawal (t=18.01, p=0.000), somatic symptoms (t=28.85, p=0.000), depression/anxiety (t=13.08, p=0.000), thought problems (t=6.24, p=0.013), attention problems (t=4.14, p=0.042), internalized problems (t=26.54, p=0.000) and total problems (t=5.23, p=0.022).


The mental health of the North Korean adolescent refugees was severe particularly in internalized problems when compared with that of the general adolescents in South Korea. This result indicates the need for interest in not only the behavior of the North Korean adolescent refugees but also their emotional problem.


Adolescent; Child Behavior Check List; Korean refugee; Mental health; Psychological problems

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