Organized Panel Session
This paper examines North Korean refugees' religious encounters throughout their transnational migrations by way of China to South Korea, North America, and Europe in comparative perspectives. It investigates how some of the refugees become voluntarily or involuntarily converted to Christianity and ordained as professional missionaries, while others are indifferent towards, critical of, or disenchanted by the religion in the contexts of both national division and their host societies. Their conversion to Christianity is often depicted as a signifier of a sacred triumph over the "evil" socialist North in evangelical political discourses. Such evangelical churches and missionary networks have provided secret shelters, broker-missionaries, and the "Underground Railways" in China and Southeast Asian countries, helping refugees migrate to South Korea and other western countries. Overseas ethnic Korean churches assist the individual refugees to resettle in the host society and the co-ethnic community. Based on more than a decade long follow-up research among North Korean refugees in different countries, this paper aims to discuss the ways in which converted North Koreans develop and practice their own religiosities in the context of transnational migration. It sheds light on religion as a lens through which one can better understand how North Korean refugees negotiate a sense of belonging and further claim to become "the chosen" rather than "helpless victims" in both secular and sacred terms. Moreover, this paper analyzes the similarities and differences in practicing religiosities and the implications among North Korean communities in Germany, England, South Korea, and the United States.