Posted on May 4, 2015

Looking into the Lives of North Korean Refugees in South Korea: A photographer’s perspective

More than 27,000 North Koreans have found a new home in South Korea, a journey documented in the captivating photo essay “Divided” by Nils Clauss and Neil Dowling. This exploration, captured in 2009 and recently featured in the German-language magazine “Wanderer zwischen zwei Welten” in the 2014 issue of the magazine Korea Forum. It sheds light on the challenges faced by North Korean refugees adapting to life in the technologically advanced South Korea.

Witness the poignant tale of North Korean refugees thriving in the dynamic environment of South Korea. The photo series, a collaborative effort between photographer Nils Clauss and writer Neil Dowling, provides a timeless window into the struggles and triumphs of those making a life-altering transition.

Defectors’ Journey

Among the 27,000 North Koreans in South Korea, the demographic has shifted over the years. Initially, government officials who chose not to return after working abroad received protection and support in the South. However, as living standards in North Korea declined, younger individuals from the Chinese border region became more prominent among defectors. Uneducated and unskilled, they face the complexities of assimilating into a society that, while once more welcoming, is feeling the economic strain.

Challenges and Aspirations

South Koreans, despite a historical sense of obligation towards their North Korean neighbors, are finding it challenging to sustain the support. The economic burden on South Korea has led to a shift in attitudes. Most defectors, granted refuge in the South, adopt new identities to shield themselves and their families left behind in the North. This personal series, captured by filmmaker and photographer Nils Clauss on location in Seoul, South Korea, delves into the lives of these resilient individuals, showcasing their determination for change and hope for a brighter future.

Media Recognition

Published in “Die Zeit” and “Open Manifesto,” this collection has gained global attention, offering a unique perspective on the struggles faced by North Korean refugees in South Korea. Clauss’s lens captures not just the visible challenges but also the silent courage of those forging ahead despite adversity.

In conclusion, “Divided” is not merely a photo essay; it’s a narrative of survival, hope, and resilience. Cinematographer Nils Clauss brings to light the stories that deserve recognition, fostering understanding and empathy for those embarking on a new chapter in unfamiliar territory.