Accepted Paper:

North Korean migrants and penetrant transnationalism  

Author:

Byung-Ho Chung

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates how North Korean migrants are creating invisible transnational spaces through the shadow transnational movements across borders, and how their penetrant transnationalism continues to challenge the existing order of a divided Korean peninsula and transforms both countries.

Paper long abstract:

North Korean migrants' identities have been in a constant state of evolution in the face of cold war politics. In South Korea, while they are given prominence as either heroes or victims of the Cold War, they are often the object of either pity or wariness as political defectors or economic refugees. The government provides them with special resettlement and social welfare support, but in fear of discrimination, they try to pass as South Koreans. Due to their unique political characteristics, they actively engage in the shadow transnational movements of people, goods and information across borders. Illegal money transfers and secret chain migration through transnational networks have become routine affairs. These acts of border-crossing are interpreted here as "penetrant transnational strategies," actions which penetrate not only the political barriers of the two divided nation-states but also the international borders beyond South Korea. This paper investigates how North Korean migrants, as actors and subjects, not as heroes or victims, are creating invisible transnational spaces through these strategies and identity politics. It also examines how their penetrant transnationalism continues to challenge the existing order of the current status quo of a divided Korean peninsula, and in so doing, transforms both countries themselves.

Panel P079
Transnational history and multicultural identities of (ethnic) Koreans