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Since the middle of the 1990s, more than 25,000 North Koreans have settled in South Korea, and researchers estimate that a further 20,000 North Korean refugees have migrated mainly to China, Southeast Asia, America, and Europe. Many of these refugees cite economic factors as the main motive for their escape, which more or less coincided with the North Korean famine, but before the 1990s there were two other periods that saw relatively large-scale emigration from North Korea, which occurred for other reasons. This paper identifies and compares the three periods, using archival sources from Korea, Hungary, and the former Soviet Union. It also uses the representative case of a North Korean medical student in Hungary to provide a unique perspective on a number of important historical events, including the August Incident in North Korea and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

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