AAS Annual Meeting

Korea Session 311

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Session 311: Migration and Citizenship in South Korea

Korean Amerasians and the Myths of Multiculturalism in South Korea
Sue-Je L. Gage, Ithaca College, USA

Multiculturalism in South Korea has been a hot topic over the last few years, yet understanding what this concept and policy is (even for Western countries that first incorporated it into government and education) has been a matter of confusion. Yet the myth of multiculturalism is that it will somehow create an open society where everyone is recognized and respected. The other myth of multiculturalism in South Korea is that it is a new phenomenon because of globalization. Historically Korea has been “multicultural,” however postcolonial politics of identity and state creation disregarded this. Despite the new arrival of notions of political recognition as South Korea grapples with its diversifying labor force and citizenry, historically “multiethnic,” “multicultural,” and “multiracial” communities continue to be disregarded in the implementations of “Multiculturalism.” Here I speak in particular of Amerasians and the U.S. military camptown areas they are associated. Multiculturalism is mapped out in South Korea to retain postcolonial sentiments of who is and who is not Korean where blood and family and all the assumed racial, gender and class hierarchies within continue to define the Korean “community” and “family.” This also concerns the ongoing imperial-like relationship that South Korea has with the United States, which serves as a link to the politicized and disregarded identities of Amerasians in South Korea. This paper addresses the myths of the rhetoric and practices or lack thereof of “multiculturalism” for Korean Amerasians in South Korea.

From Gender Equality to Class Privilege: Development of Dual Nationality in South Korea
Nora H. J. Kim, University of Mary Washington, USA

In April 2010, the Korean National Assembly voted in favor of allowing dual nationality (156 in favor, 19 against, and 17 abstentions). Building upon the analytical framework viewing dual nationality as a path-dependent development (Faist, Gerdes, and Rieple 2004), I review the development of dual nationality in Korea from mere tolerance to official acceptance. Since the late 1990s, the Korean government has introduced various legislations. Rationales behind these legislative initiatives vary from ensuring gender equality, remedying emigrants’ plight, and attracting Korean emigrants’ investments in Korea. These legislative initiatives collectively set a path to the increasing tolerance towards dual citizenship. While the initial path to dual nationality was set to ensure gender equality, the final version of the legislation indicates that dual nationality in Korea provides a class-based privilege. Forced to confront the actually existing class differences, Koreans are critical of offering dual nationality status to Korean emigrants. In this sense, the Korean case testifies the resilience of symbolic function of national citizenship in (re)producing “imagined community” (Anderson 1983). When citizenship discloses, rather covers up, actually existing inequalities, the effort to extend citizenship to a certain group will be likely to face public resistance.

Constructing and Negotiating Selves in a New Land: Three Narratives of North Korean Migrant Women in South Korea
Yoon Young Kim , Hanyang University, South Korea

Korea has been divided into two regimes by different political ideologies since the end of the Korean War in 1953. For the fifty years since, both Koreas have desired reunification and, on the other hand, sustained the tremendous tension of political conflict without any correspondence. From the middle of the 1990s, the number of North Korean refugees immigrating to South Korea has increased rapidly due to a worsening economic situation, a serious deluge and sequential drought. I conducted life story interviews with three North Korean refugee women in 2007: Mrs. Kim, a fifty-one year old from an upper-class background; Mrs. Lee, a middle-class, forty-three year old; and Mrs. Park, a forty-five year-old from the lower class. These structured interviews were conducted in- their homes located in Yangcheongu, a district in Seoul, where approximately eight hundred North Korean immigrants, comprising about 10% of the total population of North Korean immigrants in South Korea, reside. This paper examines how North Korean migrant women in South Korea construct themselves in contested and negotiated narratives. The telling of life stories, as a social practice of remembering, is a cultural vehicle that allows people to make their individuality visible. Specifically, this paper examines cultural differences, such as the way of thinking, morality, values and norms, analyzing the ways in which North Korean immigrants’ identities can be represented and constructed by nation, gender and religion.

South Korea’s “Multiple Citizenship”
Jung-Sun Park, California State University, Dominguez Hills, USA

In the era of globalization, South Korea has engaged in new nation-building processes which involve incorporation of overseas Koreans through arbitrary application of citizenship. Newly created citizenship laws have granted quasi-dual and “multiple” citizenship to selected groups of overseas Koreans. For example, the Overseas Korean Act initially extended quasi-dual citizenship to certain overseas Korean populations such as Korean Americans while excluding other groups such as Korean Chinese. This arbitrary inclusion/exclusion of different overseas Koreans to the national legal membership of South Korea elicited much criticism and eventually was defined as “unconstitutional” and amended. Despite this precedent, in April 2010, the South Korean government passed another law, which acknowledges the “multiple citizenship” of smaller groups of overseas Koreans. The main beneficiaries are Koreans who acquired dual citizenship by birthright since 1998 (U.S.-born Korean Americans meet this criterion best, as US citizenship is based on both territoriality and blood) or those who are over 65 with foreign citizenship and who wish to return to Korea for good. Clearly this elastic and selective application of citizenship casts a question about the “universality” criterion of the legal membership. But from the Korean government’s perspective, this is a necessary step toward constructing a more competent state. Situating the above-mentioned cases in the context of South Korea’s new nation-building in the globalized world, this paper will explore (1) the complex meanings and layers of citizenship in the contemporary world and (2) the impact of the changes in legal membership on Korean national identities and boundaries.

Riding the Hallyu (Korean Wave): Korean Americans and the Global Impact of Korean Pop Culture
Mary Yu Danico, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, USA

Riding the Hallyu (Korean Wave): Korean Americans and the Global Impact of Korean Pop Culture The Korean Wave, otherwise known as Hallyu 한(류/韓流/韩流), has made Korean dramas, music, and talents an international sensation. The increased popularity of Hallyuwood, combined with Korea’s imposed global economic standing, has attracted Korean Americans (gyopos) to Korea; and at the same time, stimulated Korean businesses and communities throughout Asia and in the US. Korea has made a impact on the global entertainment industry, shaped both by Korean political initiatives and Korea’s position in the shifting global economy. Korean movies, television shows, and singing sensations have gained international popularity throughout Asia and in Asian American communities where they have a mass following of adoring fans. These movies and television dramas are translated into multiple languages and have created international celebrities, such as Rain, a singer/actor. Korea’s wave not only included the entertainment industry, but its economies emerged as one of the fastest growing in Asia. Korea’s economic resurrection since the Korean War has been called the “Miracle on the Han River.” The social-political-economic success of branding Korea as one of cultural capital has challenged the ways in which today’s generation view all things Korean. My paper challenges the dominance of U.S. popular culture and examines the ways in which the South Korean entertainment industry is changing racialized perceptions of Korea and Korean bodies through out Asia.