Working Paper

"Daughters-in-law of Korea?": Policies and Discourse on Migration in South Korea

Published 1 January 2011 / By Young Jeong Kim

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Introduction

How is the traditional concept of the relationship between nation and women reinforced or modified in discourses on immigration? To explore that question, this paper examines the ways in which perceptions of and attitudes towards immigration are gendered and racialised in South Korea, one of the main countries into which contemporary inter-Asian migration is flowing. The paper studies recently introduced governmental policies along with public/media interest in migration and ethnic diversity. It argues that South Korea’s project of multiculturalism actually works as a nation-building project. This is because South Korean policies and studies about immigration and ethnic minorities prefer to target marriage-migrant women, instrumentally defining them as the mothers of South Korea’s next generation. The paper also points out that although marriage-migrant women are expected to serve as wives and mothers within Korean families, they are still posited as “others” in the overlapping hierarchical relationships between husband and wife and between sending and receiving countries.

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