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ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)
S/N Korean Humanities Vol.4 No.1 pp.49-72

The Intersectionality of Gender and Ethnicity in (Social) Mobility: Migration of Koryŏ saram Women from Uzbekistan to South Korea

Mi-Jeong Jo
Goethe University of Frankfurt


Imagined ethnic ties and affinities have funneled many Koryŏ saram into South Korea—the divided homeland of their ancestors—as coethnic labor migrants and foreign spouses over the past decade. Based on in-depth interviews with ten Uzbekistan-born Koryŏ saram women who currently reside in South Korea with their Korean husbands and children, this paper examines intersections of gender and ethnicity in the women’s migratory paths and life experiences in the employment and family spheres. After contextualizing the ensuing influx of Koryŏ saram to South Korea from the perspectives of ethnic (return) migration and marriage migration, this study looks into how the ten informants’ skills are devalorized as coethnic migrants who lack Korean language skills but appear “Korean” to contemporary South Korean people. This research also investigates the ways that the incipient Koryŏ saram community allows them to seek new employment opportunities while juggling between work and family as a married migrant with children. By examining two salient social differentiations in (social) mobility of Koryŏ saram, this paper not only betokens the social position of Koryŏ saram in South Korea, but also underscores the agency of the coethnic migrant women who struggle to pursue inclusion in the affluent homeland.