According to Lindsay Lloyd, deputy director of the Human Freedom Initiative at the Bush Institute, there are around 225 “direct” North Korean refugees who have received asylum in the United States following the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. These defectors usually go through China and then to Southeast Asia, where they apply for asylum.
Another 250 North Koreans in the United States arrived as legal immigrants after spending several months or years in South Korea, and obtaining a South Korean citizenship. Despite being born in North Korea, they are registered as South Koreans on America’s doorstep, Lloyd said.
As for undocumented immigrants from North Korea, they are “all over the map,” Lloyd said, estimating they are fewer than 1,000.
A 2014 Bush Institute research revealed North Koreans have conflicting feelings regarding their assimilation and opportunities in the United States.
“In many cases, the support provided to refugees in the United States was stellar and participants believed the help they received, despite the challenges they faced, allowed them to very quickly achieve economic independence,” the report stated.
“For others, however, outside help was scarce and it was not only a struggle to acclimate to their new surroundings, but to achieve a minimal standard of financial independence,” the report said.