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Kotjebi, kotchebi, or ggotjebi[1] (Korean제비; RRkkotjebi; MRkkotchebi) is a Korean term denoting North Korean homeless children. The term literally means "flowering (꽃) swallows (제비)", given because of the kotjebi's constant search for food and shelter.[2] The kotjebi are not officially recognized in North Korea, with any mention of the term being prohibited in state publications and documents.[3]

Origins and status[edit]

The orphaned kotjebi first appeared en masse in the mid-1990s in the wake of the North Korean famine, which collapsed the food distribution system.[3] In an effort to "stabilize the livelihood of vagrants throughout the country", the North Korean government established special "Children's Detention Camps" in 1995, which were effectively rundown apartments. Because of poor conditions in the detention camps children have died of malnutrition.[4]


The kotjebi are constantly forced to seek food and thus gather in groups to beg and pickpocket.[3] Most of the kotjebi eat only once a day. The diet of the kotjebi, along with the food they obtain from begging, consists mainly of grass soup, wild vegetable porridge, and grass roots.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Hyung-Jin (5 Jun 2013). "Activist: Smiling NKorean defectors told of misery". Associated Press. Yahoo!. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
  2. ^ "Kim Jong Il's North Korea". Google Books. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  3. ^ a b c "The Old Generation Calls North Korea "the Great Poverty Country"". Dailynk.com. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  4. ^ "Intervention Agenda Item 13: Rights of Children". Awomansvoice.org. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  5. ^ "DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA" (PDF). Niew.gov.my. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2008-08-12.