Determinants of Labor Market Participation and Wages of North Korean Female Refugees in South Korea


  • B.-Y. Kim and S.-H. Jung acknowledge that this work was supported by grant R32-2009-000-20055-0 from the World Class University (WCU) project of the Korean Ministry of Education, Science & Technology (MEST) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) through Seoul National University.

Byung-Yeon Kim, Department of Economics, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. Email:


This paper uses data from a survey on 289 North Korean female refugees who arrived in South Korea in 2007 to understand the determinants of their economic adaption in the South Korean labor market. More specifically, we look at the effects of job finding channels and government policies on the labor market participation and wages of these women. We find that job finding through both personal contacts and public employment networks increases the probability of finding employment, but the former, especially job finding through contacts with South Koreans, is the most effective route to finding employment. In addition, jobs with higher wages are acquired in employment attained from South Korean referrals, followed by South Korean government agencies and those from North Korean refugee contacts. We further find that labor market participation is negatively affected by both public benefits and private transfers possibly because of increases in the reservation wages of job seekers.