Accepted paper:

Spatial Stories of Temporary Migrant Workers: Filipino Migrant Workers and Their Sunday Street Market in Seoul

Author:

Yeong-Hyun Kim (Ohio University)

Paper short abstract:

This research examines the spatial restrictions imposed upon temporary migrant workers in Seoul, South Korea. The placing and timing of the Filipino street market reveals the everyday realities of exclusion and the lived experiences of migrant workers in Seoul.

Paper long abstract:

Seoul has recently received a growing number of migrant workers from developing Asia, including the Philippines, through South Korea's guest worker program. More than 40,000 Filipinos are currently employed in un-skilled, low-wage manufacturing jobs located in the city's outer rings. Much is known about the South Korean state's strict control measures on temporary migrant workers and their legal and economic vulnerability, but little about the spatial restrictions imposed upon them. While migrant workers are accommodated in factory dorms, they come out on weekends for shopping, worship, or other personal activities. This research examines the contested negotiations between the state, the Catholic Church, and Filipino workers over the University Boulevard flea market in Hyehwa, Seoul, which attracts nearly 3,000 Filipinos every Sunday afternoon. Particular focus is paid to the migrant workers' marginal, time-limited access to this public space that is connected to the city's high culture district with many small independent theatres and art galleries. It is argued that, despite the much vaunted rhetoric, by the state and the church, of multiculturalism and inclusiveness, the placing and timing of the Filipino street market reveals the everyday realities of exclusion and the lived experiences of migrant workers in Seoul. It is also argued that the migrants are actively engaged in producing a transnational locality that not only brings them together to socialize and to connect with their homes and churches back in the Philippines but also empowers them to feel belonged to the city's major attraction.

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