Skip to main content

Humanitarian Assistance: Status of North Korean Refugee Resettlement and Asylum in the United States

GAO-10-691 Published: Jun 24, 2010. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 2010.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


Famine killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in the 1990s and compelled a large number of others to leave in search of food, economic opportunities, and escape from a repressive regime. This migration continues. Some North Koreans seek resettlement in other countries, such as South Korea and the United States. To promote a more durable humanitarian solution to the plight of North Korean refugees, Congress passed the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004. In reauthorizing the Act in 2008, Congress found that delays in processing North Korean refugees have led refugees to abandon their quest for U.S. resettlement. GAO was asked to (1) assess the U.S. government's efforts to facilitate the processing of North Korean refugees who request resettlement in the United States from overseas, and (2) determine the number of North Koreans who have sought asylum to remain in the United States and the process by which they may do so. GAO is issuing a separate classified annex to this report. GAO analyzed data on North Korean refugees and asylees, interviewed agency officials, and conducted fieldwork in Asia. This report does not contain recommendations. The Departments of State (State), Homeland Security, and Justice provided technical comments and GAO incorporated these comments, as appropriate.

Full Report

GAO Contacts

Office of Public Affairs


Aid to refugeesImmigration statusAsylumCitizenshipEligibility determinationsForeign governmentsHumanitarian assistanceImmigrantsImmigrationImmigration and naturalization lawImmigration information systemsInternational cooperationInternational relationsPolitical refugeesRefugeesHuman rights