Mediating Between Exclusionary/Inclusionary Politics and Migrant ‘Model Minority'

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Bubbles Beverly ASOR , Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Regulatory migration regimes implemented in South Korea have evolved from a strictly exclusivist ethno-nationalist position into a more 'inclusive' and accommodating stance. Exclusionary policies (i.e. non-citizenship for migrant workers, non-family reunification, short-term work contracts, differential citizenship rights) continue to be implemented alongside efforts of employing inclusionary approaches (multicultural plans for ethnic Koreans and marriage migrants, the Employment Permit System, the amended Nationality Act, etc). In this paper, I posit that the exclusionary tendencies of these policies are not only steered by the strong ethno-nationalistic sentiment but also by developmentalist politics which gives primacy on economic development over migrants' rights. Despite the political and cultural barriers, policy outcomes suggest that there has been both ‘relative success’ and ‘foiled attempts’ in making migration regimes more inclusive through the concerted efforts of Korean civil society for migrant advocacy and the accommodation of migrants’ demands by the Korean state. As a result, inclusiveness is present in selected policies with an attempt to integrate migrants in a “stratified and segmented” manner. However, this very same inclusiveness sometimes turns into a facade for exclusionary tendencies that are still entrenched in the structures.

Through in-depth analysis of existing Korean migration policies and multicultural project, I draw out the inclusive/exclusive stipulations of Korean migration strategy and how these influence the various strategies for claims making and informal politics of migrant-serving mediating structures which serve as bridge between the Korean state and migrants being reconfigured as ‘migrant model minorities’. Based on a 12-month ethnographic research in South Korea from August 2012 to September 2013, I examine the two-pronged mediating roles of migrant civil society in (1) mitigating the developmentalist exclusionary aspects of migration; and (2) cooperating with the Korean state to reinforce inclusionary migration policies.