Korean Studies Vol 32 (2008)

Korean Minorities in the Age of Globalization

Between Defector and Migrant: Identities and Strategies of North Koreans in South Korea / Byung-Ho Chung / pp. 1-27

Subject Headings:

* Korea (North) — Emigration and immigration.
* Korea (South) — Emigration and immigration.
* Defectors — Korea (South) — Social conditions.
* Group identity — Korea (South)


This article examines the structural conditions and the individual strategies of North Koreans in South Korea. It provides a historical account on the changing social definitions of and policies toward North Korean border-crossers and how the changing conditions have affected their identities and lives. It also gives an ethnographic account of the difficulties and risks of individuals whose identities are caught between “defector” and “migrant.” The problems they face in capitalist South Korea are examined in the major areas of social transition—arrival, orientation, residence, consumption, work, education, and ideology—focusing on individual strategies that negotiate cultural differences between the two Koreas.

Will South Korea Follow the German Experience?: Democracy, the Migratory Process, and the Prospects for Permanent Immigration in Korea / Timothy C. Lim / pp. 28-55

Subject Headings:

* Korea (South) — Emigration and immigration — Government policy.
* Alien labor — Civil rights — Korea (South)
* Korea (South) — Race relations.
* Korea (South) — Ethnic relations.


Long portrayed as an ethnically pure and homogenous nation-state—the quintessential “historical nation”—it has generally been taken for granted that South Korea was immune to the processes of global migration. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, the barriers to large-scale migration began to break down. The reason is easy enough to discern: after decades of rapid and sustained industrialization, combined with a continuous increase in economic wealth, severe labor shortages started to appear in certain segments of the Korean economy. The demand for foreign labor, in short, overcame Korean fears of an “ethnic invasion.” Despite this, many observers assume that the country is still immune to the deeper political, cultural, and social changes that increasing in-migration typically bring. In particular, many believe that South Korea will avoid becoming a country of immigration. In this article, I challenge this view. I argue that the processes of migration tend to unfold in a broadly similar, but not exact manner in different countries—including in South Korea—regardless of their unique social, institutional, political, and cultural circumstances.

Mixed Race Peoples in the Korean National Imaginary and Family / Mary Lee / pp. 56-85

Subject Headings:

* Racially mixed people — Korea (South) — Social conditions.
* Racially mixed people — Family relationships — Korea (South)


This article discusses the production of “mixed-race” subjectivity in South Korea. It asks: how can we understand the lived experiences and histories of mixed-race people as integral to the logic of national governance, both past and present? Instead of regarding mixed-race people in Korea as an aberration or regrettable phenomenon, this article contends that their “otherness” is an outcome of the intensions, contradictions, and insecurities of national governance which coheres around discourse and legislation on the family. The testimony of various mixed-race people living in Korea reveals the racial, gendered, and sexual discursive modalities through which they were rendered outside the scope and meaning of Koreanness. Their testimony also corresponds with the discursive limits set forth by the government, particularly in the establishment of laws that govern desired familial relations within the climate of Cold War militarism, industrialization, and the post-democratization era of globalization and official multiculturalism. The longstanding and still practiced abjection of mixed-race people from South Korean society cannot be understood without exploring the intersection between a racial politics of “blood purity” and a gendered politics of patriarchy that works in service of an imagined Korean homogeneity.

The Gay Rights Movement in Democratizing Korea / Youngshik D. Bong /pp. 86-103

Subject Headings:

* Gay liberation movement — Korea (South)
* Gay rights — Korea (South)


The transition to democracy and the experience of globalization have transformed the ways Korea as a nation defines its national identity. Rising public attention and acceptance of human rights issues have resulted in discernable political changes in the areas of human rights, but sexual minorities are still left outside such positive developments. Building on the existing scholarly literature on gay rights in Korea, this article examines the problems of sexual minorities and their fight against them in the military, mass media, the educational system, and the courts. It also highlights the key points of contention and obstacles to underpinning the current state of sexual minorities and discusses the likely future trajectory of the gay rights movement in Korean society.


Emperor and Emissary: The Hongwu Emperor, Kwŏn Kŭn, and the Poetry of Late Fourteenth Century Diplomacy / Dane Alston /pp. 104-147

Subject Headings:

* Kwŏn, Kŭn, 1352-1409 — Travel — China.
* Kwŏn, Kŭn, 1352-1409 — Poetic works.
* Ming Taizu, Emperor of China, 1328-1398 — Poetic works.
* Korea — Foreign relations — China.
* China — Foreign relations — Korea.
* Korea — Foreign relations — 1392-1910.
* China — Foreign relations — To 1644.


In 1396, a diplomatic rift emerged between the Chosŏn government and its Chinese neighbor. The Ming court took offense at poorly worded diplomatic correspondences and promptly froze all contact with Chosŏn. Court official and scholar Kwŏn Kŭn volunteered to go to China to resolve the dispute. Not only did Kwŏn end up resolving the diplomatic dispute and securing the release of detained envoys, but he also struck a rapport with the Hongwu emperor. The emperor lavished feasts, clothing, and tours upon Kwŏn and even composed poetry for him. Kwŏn reciprocated with three collections of poems, totaling twenty-four individual poems. Upon returning to Chosŏn, Kwŏn was celebrated for solving the diplomatic dispute, and he gained praise for his poetic exchanges with the emperor. This article centers on Kwŏn’s trip to China and his exchange of poetry with the Hongwu emperor. It charts domestic events in both Ming China and Chosŏn leading up to the diplomatic disputes in 1396–1397 and uses Kwŏn’s trip and the exchange of poetry as a vehicle to explore the diplomatic, territorial, and historical issues that surrounded this event and relations between the two countries.

On the Semantic Derogation of Terms for Women in Korean, with Parallel Developments in Chinese and Japanese / Minju Kim / pp. 148-176

Subject Headings:

* Korean language — Semantics.
* Chinese language — Semantics.
* Japanese language — Semantics.
* Sex discrimination against women — Korea.


This study investigates two kinds of semantic change in terms for women in Korean, along with parallel developments in Chinese and Japanese, and examines the underlying mechanisms that cause these linguistic changes. In Korean and Chinese, polite terms for young women (akassi and xiăo jiĕ, respectively) have been taking on strong sexual connotations, due to the terms’ association with professions in the sex trade. In Korean and Japanese, terms for older sister (enni and oneesan/oneechan, respectively) have been adopted by more senior speakers to address young women, especially those in service interactions, including those in sex entertainment. This study demonstrates that besides sexist attitudes, other quite different motivations can be responsible for the semantic derogation of terms for women. In an effort to be polite, speakers have adopted positive female terms to address women of lower occupational status. Subsequently, the burden of the lower-status referents has caused the positive terms to undergo semantic derogation.

Book Reviews

Korea’s Twentieth-Century Odyssey: A Short History (review) / Jong Chol An / pp. 177-180

Domesticating the Dharma: Buddhist Cults and the Hwaŏm Synthesis in Silla Korea (review) / Chanju Mun / pp. 180-183

Korean Spirituality (review) / Timothy S. Lee / pp. 183-186

The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China (review) / Joy S. Kim / pp. 186-188

The Korean Presidents: Leadership for Nation Building (review) / Thomas S. Wilkins / pp. 188-190

China Rising: Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia (review) / Jungmin Seo /pp. 190-193

Divided Korea: Toward a Culture of Reconciliation (review) / Kevin D. Kim /pp. 193-195

Rethinking Historical Injustice and Reconciliation in Northeast Asia: The Korean Experience (review) / Tobias Hübinette / pp. 195-197

Strategic Thinking about the Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four Parties Caught between North Korea and the United States (review) / Captain Lucius Tillman / pp. 198-200

The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea (review) / Jungmin Seo / pp. 200-203

Modern Korean Society: Its Development and Prospect (review) / Yoonkyung Lee / pp. 203-205

Seoul Searching: Culture and Identity in Contemporary Korean Cinema (review) / Sang Yee Cheon / pp. 205-207

Korean Kayagŭm Sanjo: A Traditional Instrumental Genre (review) / Sun Hee Koo / pp. 207-209

Zainichi Korean Identity and Ethnicity (review) / Haeng-ja Chung / pp. 209-212

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