Colloquium: North Korean Migrant Identity in Neoliberal South Korea

photo: Young-a ParkThe Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies spring 2012 Col­lo­qui­um Series will begin Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 27, with a pre­sen­ta­tion titled “North Kore­an Migrant Iden­ti­ty in Neolib­er­al South Korea” by Prof. Young-a Park of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii at Manoa Asian Stud­ies Pro­gram. The col­lo­qui­um will take place in the Center’s con­fer­ence room begin­ning at 4:00 p.m.

Although the South Kore­an state pro­vides auto­mat­ic legal cit­i­zen­ship and reset­tle­ment funds for North Kore­an refugees based on the idea of “One Korea, One Nation,” the cur­rent pub­lic dis­cours­es on reuni­fi­ca­tion and refugees reveal sub­stan­tial weak­en­ing of this nation­al­ist mind­set. Reflect­ing this change in pub­lic sen­ti­ment, South Kore­an gov­ern­ment and semi­gov­ern­ment agen­cies that sup­port North Kore­an refugees show signs of chang­ing their approach to assist­ing North Kore­an refugees. The aid agen­cies focus more on refugees’ per­son­al devel­op­ment and self-respon­si­bil­i­ty and pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion and job train­ing incen­tives than indis­crim­i­nate­ly dis­pens­ing reset­tle­ment funds. 

Based on ethno­graph­ic field­work con­duct­ed between 2005 and 2010 with North Kore­an migrants in the city of Taegu, Prof. Park will explore migrants’ strate­gies in obtain­ing cul­tur­al mem­ber­ship in South Korea and the for­ma­tion of their new transna­tion­al migrant iden­ti­ties in the face of a weak­en­ing nation­al­ist narrative.

Park, who joined the Asian Stud­ies Pro­gram fac­ul­ty in 2011, is a grad­u­ate of Seoul Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty and Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, where she earned her Ph.D. in anthro­pol­o­gy in 2006. She is the author of a forth­com­ing book from Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, Unex­pect­ed Alliances: Post-author­i­tar­i­an State, Inde­pen­dent Film Net­works, and Film Indus­try in South Korea.

Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies col­lo­quia are free and open to all. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion, includ­ing infor­ma­tion on access for the hand­i­capped, tele­phone the Cen­ter at (808) 956‑7041.