12660 EF: Media Literacy as Third Space: Empowering and Emancipating North Korean Re-settler Youths in South Korea

06/12/2015 @ 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
The Wiltern A

Organizer: Eun Young Jang


To cultivate media literacy is critical for the NK youths, not only to experience and understand South Korean society, but also to have access to and be engaged in this new society. Nevertheless, media education has not received sufficient attention, leaving North Korean (NK) refugee youths, who presumably had limited access to digital tools and popular culture, feeling distant and incompetent when interacting with their South Korean peers.

The purpose of the study is to investigate the impacts of the media literacy education on identity construction of NK refugee adolescents. Drawing upon the framework of multiple literacies, the researchers examined the ways in which NK teenagers construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct a sense of self and others while participating in the media education program, WHY.M.E. This program was to help NK youths cultivate media literacy – a repertoire of competencies to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms.


The New London Group has pointed out earlier that schools should re-conceptualize the meaning of literacy because there are numerous ways of reading and writing ideas beyond print literacy in the era of media, technology, and globalization. Adopting this framework of multiple literacies, the Deleuzian perspective that supports ongoing, transformative processes of becoming through deterritorialization and reterritorialization is also considered a critical lens to analyze and understand the complicated process of the NK youths’ identity construction.

Methods and Data Source

Framed within the qualitative research paradigm, this year-long action study was initiated by designing and implementing the WHY.M.E. project as an extracurricular course in an alternative school for NK youths. Data sources included observation field notes, interviews, audio/video recordings of the major class activities, and the student-generated media products. The collected multi-modal data was analyzed through thematic analysis while focusing on discursive construction of identities.

Findings and Conclusion

One overarching finding of this study was the critical role of the media literacy project, which served as a ‘safe house’ for NK refugee youths who might suffer from their stigmatized status in South Korea. Through participating in project activities such as storytelling, peer interviewing, and collaborative filming, the NK students were able to situate themselves within their own stories: reconcile their past, encounter their present, and aspire to their future with much less anxiety and insecurity. The aphoristic and metaphorical phrases regarding ‘camera,’ ‘media education course,’ and ‘self’ created by the NK students reflected deep-rooted and re-pictured ideas about themselves and their future.


This study draws attention to media as an educational resource for NK refugee youths. This is meaningful because media is already the most immediate and presumably, the most favored tool of communication for teens. Further, this action research not only captured the process of identity construction but also provided a digital space where the North Korean adolescents’ ideas and emotions were expressed, their stories addressed, and their futures dreamed and pursued.

twitter facebook flickr vimeo youtube google+