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Contention in the Construction of a Global Korean Community: The Case of the Overseas Korean Act

Contention in the Construction of a Global Korean Community: The Case of the Overseas Korean Act Amid great controversy, the South Korean National Assembly passed the Overseas Korean Act (OKA) on December 3, 1999. The benefits, which resemble quasi-citizenship rights, are justified by the South Korean government’s drive to redefine and reconstruct Korean identity in the context of an increasingly globalized world. Certain overseas Korean groups are legally included as (quasi) members of the South Korean nation-state, whereas other groups remain legal outsiders. Many people argue that the OKA defines “Korean identity” through technical and legal connections to the nation-state, South Korea, which in turn has larger implications for who does and does not constitute a Korean. Thus, the debate revolves around the confounded notions of national/legal/ethnic identities. Utilizing survey data and qualitative interviews, this article delineates the relationship between the South Korean government’s efforts to legally define Korean identity and a Korean diasporic community’s challenge based on ethnic homogeneity. Findings indicate that there is contention over not only the criteria by which one is defined as “Korean,” but also over the legitimacy of actors privileged to make such distinctions. We also point to the importance of considering historical experiences and geopolitics in shaping identity politics in the current context. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Korean Studies Duke University Press

Contention in the Construction of a Global Korean Community: The Case of the Overseas Korean Act

Journal of Korean Studies , Volume 10 (1) – Sep 1, 2005

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Copyright
Copyright © 2005 by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
ISSN
0731-1613
eISSN
2158-1665
DOI
10.1353/jks.2005.0002
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Amid great controversy, the South Korean National Assembly passed the Overseas Korean Act (OKA) on December 3, 1999. The benefits, which resemble quasi-citizenship rights, are justified by the South Korean government’s drive to redefine and reconstruct Korean identity in the context of an increasingly globalized world. Certain overseas Korean groups are legally included as (quasi) members of the South Korean nation-state, whereas other groups remain legal outsiders. Many people argue that the OKA defines “Korean identity” through technical and legal connections to the nation-state, South Korea, which in turn has larger implications for who does and does not constitute a Korean. Thus, the debate revolves around the confounded notions of national/legal/ethnic identities. Utilizing survey data and qualitative interviews, this article delineates the relationship between the South Korean government’s efforts to legally define Korean identity and a Korean diasporic community’s challenge based on ethnic homogeneity. Findings indicate that there is contention over not only the criteria by which one is defined as “Korean,” but also over the legitimacy of actors privileged to make such distinctions. We also point to the importance of considering historical experiences and geopolitics in shaping identity politics in the current context.

Journal

Journal of Korean StudiesDuke University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2005

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