Micro-celebrities from the North: Young North Korean defectors’ vlogging on YouTube


  • Kyong Yoon University of British Columbia Okanagan




North Korean defector, South Korea, YouTube, Micro-celebrity, Vlog, Creative labor, Meokbang


By analyzing YouTube channels of young North Korean defectors, this article examines the cultural meanings of social media in these marginalized young people’s resettled lives. The article focuses on four YouTube channels managed by four young North Korean defectors living in South Korea. The four channels show how defectors, a majority of whom remain almost invisible in the South Korean public sphere, use digital platforms to display their identity as real people. Moreover, these channels involve digital storytelling of how the defectors negotiate their inter-Korean identities and interact with South Korean viewers. Furthermore, the four YouTube channels reveal how creative labor is professionalized and incorporated into the digital attention economy. This article suggests that, with some restrictions, such as restrictive technological affordances and profit-seeking algorithm, digital platforms allow defector youth to engage with social media storytelling and question the dominant representation of defectors.

Author Biography

Kyong Yoon, University of British Columbia Okanagan

Associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada




How to Cite

Yoon, K. (2021). Micro-celebrities from the North: Young North Korean defectors’ vlogging on YouTube . First Monday, 26(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i7.11565