Exploring the Lives of Sri-Lankan Migrants Working in Korea

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Iresha LAKSHMAN, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Kavindra PARANAGE, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Praveena RAJKOBAL, Deakin University, Australia
Data gathering for the research that is discussed here is currently underway. The main objective of the research is to explore the nature of social and work life experienced by Sri Lankan migrants working in Korea with a special emphasis on work-related issues and concerns.

The research deals with qualitative data gathered through interviews with 30 Sri Lankans currently working in Korea. Data was collected largely through online interviews, with a few interviews being conducted face-to-face.

The tentative patterns identified in the data shows a marked improvement of the individuals’ and his/her family’s financial standing due to earnings made in Korea. Compared to the income they earned in Sri Lanka prior to migration, they and their families are now able to enjoy a more comfortable life which is largely a result of the improved income status.

However, the study also revealed several areas of work-related difficulties encountered by these workers in Korea. The Sri Lankan migrants seem to be having difficulties adapting to the austere work ethic in Korea which according to them is far more rigid than what they have experienced in Sri Lanka as well as achieving an optimum work-leisure balance. Further, the solidarity between employers and employees appear to be contingent on the effectiveness of the workers’ productiveness.

Additionally, all the respondents were unanimous in claiming that their Korean employers and colleagues continued to treat them as ‘strangers/outsiders’ even after being employed for several years. Often, such treatment is reflected in day-to-day conversations between Korean employers/co-workers and Sri Lankans. This issue of recognition seems to be making it difficult for the migrants to develop a sense of belonging that would facilitate their integration into wider Korean society.