PURPOSE: The study was done to explore meanings and essence of the experience in South Korea of men defectors from North Korea. METHODS: Data were collected from March, 2011 to May, 2012, through in-depth interviews with ten men defectors. Data analysis was conducted using the process of hermeneutic phenomenological reflection. RESULTS: Eight essential themes were extracted; 'buoyant expectation for a new life', 'feeling guilty about family left behind in North Korea', 'inability to become acclimatized due to communication difficulties', 'inability to socialize with South Koreans due to different lifestyles', 'finding strength through trustworthy acquaintances', 'continuing reconciliation with oneself while trying to assimilate into South Korean culture', 'self-realization of one's original self', and 'continuing to feel out the possibility of a future in South Korea'. CONCLUSION: The findings indicate that North Korean men who defect to South Korea shape their identity through three phases: forming self-image during escape from North Korea, trying to become accustomed to South Korean society, and finding their own identity by self-realization of their original self. Eventually, the whole process enables them to recover their identity, to feel a sense of belonging, and to discover possibilities for a better future.