Organizer: Heh-Rahn Park, Tufts University
Chair: Hagen Koo, University of Hawaii
Discussant: Ann S. Anagnost, University of Washington
The ever increasing flows of people, information, and capital across cultural and territorial boundaries raises the complex issues of globalization and transnationalism. Recent literature on globalization celebrates border-free traffic in capital, labor, and culture. However, this locally bounded process also influences cultural interpretation of class, gender, ethnicity, and nationhood. This panel seeks to localize the complex terrain of globalization in the context of South Korean state politics. "New Korea Creation," Kim Young Sam's 1992 presidential campaign slogan was replaced by "segyehwa" as he began his regime. Actually, his emphasis on "segyehwa" represents the state's strategic response to domestic and global changes affected by the increasingly deregulated capital flow and the international commodification of labor. "Segyehwa" has in fact led to a contested redefinition of home-diaspora relations and South-North Korean relations.
South Korean state politics in relation to "segyehwa" are often ambivalent and uncanny. In this panel, participants explore narratives of gender experiences, transnational flows of people, labor politics, and national identity. They juxtapose institutional changes including new laws and state surveillance. Globalization and state politics inevitably produce sites of tension. In this panel, participants seek to advance theoretical perspectives on globalization and transnationalism through ethnographic and textual analysis.
Becoming an Illegal Migrant Laborer: Globalization and Labor Politics
Hyun-Ok Park, University of Michigan
This paper focuses on two aspects of the labor politics of Korean Chinese migrants in South Korea: their institutional incorporation into a bifurcated labor community, and their negotiations for job opportunities, wages, and illegal visa status. Korean Chinese experience discloses the limits of both an emerging ethnicized national community in Korea and internalized labor politics.
Korean Chinese employment in labor intensive, small, and low cost based factories is triggered by recurrent labor shortages in South Korea. Under the law which restricts the employment of foreigners to learn or teach skills and technology, Korean Chinese migrant workers are identified not as workers but as "industrial trainees" (Sanop kisul yonsusaeng). Therefore, they are not covered by protective laws, including standard labor laws, compensation for work-related accidents, and minimum wages.
Their experience in the labor market also shows the intersection of the state's labor policies and new national policies. While "segyehwa" evokes fraternal ties among Korean blood-kin, ethnicity hardly suffices for membership to this national and economic community. Meeting this contradiction, Korean Chinese develop diverse strategies, such as building extensive networks among themselves and frequently switching work, which means trading off their legal status. Their negotiations in the labor market suggest the state's formation of a new national imagery is an on-going process, as it is contested and reconfigured by the Korean Diaspora's representation of themselves as "home returnees."
Narratives of Class and Gender in Diaspora "At Home"
Nancy Abelmann, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
In this paper, I explore South Korean women's narratives on their emigrant kin and cohort members. This paper is based on extensive extended family histories of middle-aged women across the class spectrum. I am interested in the ways in which women articulate their own gendered, political identities via this constellation of emigrants. I argue that these identities are dialogically produced in context of global processes and politics. Further, I explore the articulation of these women's narratives to South Korea's changing collective representations of the relationship between "development" and Diaspora.
I pay particular attention to the various ways in which women render their personal Diaspora networks in relation to class and gender identification, and social mobility history. I also focus on these women's diverse narration of their Diaspora network according to the historical time of emigration: that is, I argue that these Diaspora narratives "at home" reflect changing political economies and social discourses. I consider how these women are coming to terms with the rhetorical and economic shifts in Korea's recent "globalization" era. In sum, I argue that in South Korea, local or national identities articulate with the changing political, economic, and discursive contours of the Korean Diaspora.
Globalization, the State, and "Women Policy" in South Korea
Seungsook Moon, Vassar College
This paper attempts to examine apparent changes in the relationship between the Korean state and women as a target group of its policies in the context of globalization since the mid-1980s. Prior to this period, the state was rarely concerned with policy regarding gender equality. This absence is poignantly illustrated by the fact that for the past three decades or so, population control-euphemistically called family planning-has been the most conspicuous policy on women officially incorporated into the project of economic development on a continuous basis. Yet, by the beginning of the 1990s, this representative policy on women has been de-emphasized. The same period since the mid-1980s also witnesses the emergence of yoson chongch'aik (women policy) which appears to focus on gender equality in employment and women's welfare. Under the current regime headed by the civilian regime, "women policy" has drawn considerable attention.
This paper is divided into two parts. First, it will outline "women policy" in terms of its similarities to, and differences from, the family planning policy. Second, it will analyze the complex interplay among such factors as cultural globalization, societal democratization, women's movement, and political calculation of state elites which have contributed to the emergence of a "women policy." By cultural globalization, I refer to the adoption of women's status in society popularized as an indicator of national development by the UN-declared Women's Decade. Then, I will assess to what extent "women policy" differs from the problematic equation between women's status and national prestige.
Surveilling the Margin, State Anxiety, and Transnational Marriage Between South
Korean Men and Korean Chinese Women
Heh-Rahn Park, Tufts University
The articulation of South Korean patriarchy and the global inequality in wealth has engineered transnational marriages between South Korean men and Korean Chinese women. These marriages have been encouraged for expanding Korea by celebrating the ties of Korean ethnicity. I argue that the South Korean rhetoric of "segyehwa" stands in an ironic relationship to the nationalist trope of "sint'oburi" (that soil/place of origin and body should go together), such that "segyehwa" privileges South Korea as the center of control for a diasporic and expatriate community. This ambivalent combination of "segyehwa" and "sint'oburi" also reveals the domestic defensiveness towards foreign commodities and "labor commodity."
In the transnational marriages that I examine, the state dream of "segyehwa" and individual despair of "sint'oburi" cojoin with irony. Furthermore, I will explore how the state and mass media discourses on transnational marriages demonstrate a prevalent South Korea state anxiety over reframing Korean national identity through state policy and media representation.