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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Sarah Son

BA (Bond University), MA (SOAS)


Sarah Son
Sarah Son
Email address:
Thesis title:
South Korean policy for North Korean defectors and nation-building on the Korean peninsula, 1996-2012
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


I completed my BA in International Relations and Journalism in Australia, which I then extended to an Honours degree (first class award). After three years working in Japan, I came to the UK to do an MA International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, where I took courses in Economics, International Law and Japanese. I then worked in UK politics in Westminster in publications and events management, before co-founding a family business consultancy linking South Korea and the UK. I commenced my PhD studies in the Department of Japan and Korea in 2010 on SOAS Research Fellowship funding, with a view to completing in 2013.

PhD Research

My research examines the changes to South Korean government policy for North Korean defectors between 1996 and 2012, with a view to understanding the primary motivating factors behind these changes. It considers what forces have been influential in the shift from treating North Koreans in South Korea as heroes, to the current state where defectors are largely perceived as an underclass within South Korean society. This is done by taking identity as a key explanatory factor in South Korea’s policy formation process, specifically identity in the context of nation-building as it is expressed in unification policy generally, and policy for North Korean defectors specifically. My research aims to present a fresh understanding of nation and identity in South Korea by applying a constructivist perspective to this significant area of policy.