Decentering Citizenship
Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea
Hae Yeon Choo


Contents and Abstracts
1 Decentering Citizenship: Perils, Promises, Possibilities
chapter abstract

This chapter delves into the paradox of citizenship—the allure of equality alongside its perpetually unfulfilled promise—by situating the pursuit of citizenship in the complex terrain where people come together to seek dignity and security in an unequal world. This chapter attends to the margins of citizenship, the heart of the struggle for migrant rights in South Korea. Margins are not simply determined by structural forces and imposed exclusion; they are also full of vibrant contestation that shifts and remakes the borders of citizenship. This chapter revealed that struggles around citizenship do not begin and end with legislation but rather involve continuous on-the-ground negotiation and subject-making through labor processes, civil society mobilization, and moral boundary-making. This chapter offers a theoretical overview of citizenship and introduces the ethnographic study and setting.

2 The Journey of Global Women: From the Philippines to South Korea
chapter abstract

This chapter examines how Filipina women navigate a migrant journey of multiple border-crossings under the exclusive migration regimes in Asia. As the Philippine state engaged in the "labor brokerage" of its citizens for migrant labor export, these women left the Philippines to labor in various factories, hostess clubs, and private homes throughout Southeast and East Asia and the Middle East as contract migrant workers and wives. Some carved out a space in South Korea against a restrictive immigration policy while others aspired to continue their transnational journey, planning their next step to an often unknown destination in the United States, Canada, or Europe, where they hoped to achieve socioeconomic mobility, permanent residency, and family unification. Through the narratives of Filipina migrant women, this chapter situates their seemingly endless journey within a transnational landscape where working class women's mobility is encouraged but security and citizenship are just out of reach.

3 Duties, Desires, and Dignity: South Koreans on Migrant Encounters
chapter abstract

This chapter asks what the migrant encounter means for contemporary South Koreans, exploring diverse groups of South Koreans such as migrant activists, volunteer Korean language teachers, and pastors of migrant churches. It highlights the gendered and generational aspirations that led them to work with migrants as they search for a sense of national belonging, new forms of sociability, and membership in global South Korea. These South Korean women and men occupied diverse roles as directors of multicultural education centers, volunteers, social workers, and migrant worker activists. These individuals assigned heterogeneous meanings to their work with migrants, which they used to pursue their personal aspirations and their aspirations for the South Korean nation. Their narratives provide a glimpse into the social lives of South Koreans who came into direct contact with migrants through their gendered labor to delve into shifting meanings of citizenship and belonging in a globalizing South Korea.

4 Everyday Politics of Immigration Raids in the Shadow of Citizenship
chapter abstract

This chapter takes a close look at immigration crackdowns to show that they are less about enforcing the state's non-settlement policy than containing migrants in the spheres of "home, church, and factory" outside of South Korean public eye. Immigration officers participate in the open secret that undocumented migrants are concentrated in such neighborhoods by policing their boundaries and targeting migrants who enter public spaces on the borders of migrant towns. Even though migrant wives and documented migrant workers are not subject to deportation, they also avoid these public spaces due to their experiences of being arrested and released based on their race. In addition, immigrant raids target politically active migrants for deportation, including leaders of migrant trade unions, denying their on-the-books right of association. As such, immigration crackdowns operate as a strategy to contain and discipline migrants and constrain the practice of rights and citizenship.

5 The Making of Migrant Workers and Migrant Women
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the process through which the ethnically and religiously cohesive Filipina migrant community in South Korea came to be treated as two distinct groups of migrant workers and migrant women. Instead of naturally emerging according to legal categories, this chapter shows that women migrants were produced as migrant wife and migrant worker subjects through encounters with South Korean religious, civic, and political actors. It shows that gendered interactions between South Korean advocates as "mediators of rights" and migrants had consequences for migrants' political participation. Whereas advocates' paternalistic interaction norms restricted migrant workers' exercise of their substantive citizenship by reinforcing the less-than-adult status of migrants vis-à-vis South Koreans, the maternalistic care advocates provided for migrant wives facilitated their development of collective claims. The making of migrant subjects does not include migrant hostesses, who are not targeted for political empowerment by South Korean civil society groups.

6 Workers and Working Girls: Gendering the Worker-Citizen
chapter abstract

This chapter asks why migrant factory workers and hostesses are offered differentiated rights despite their common status as migrant workers. Whereas Filipina factory workers are recognized by South Korean migrant advocacy groups and trade unions as the familiar figure of "woman worker," club hostesses are not recognized as workers with dignity but as the feminized and infantilized figure of "working girl." In addition, the organization of work in the factories and clubs produces honor and respect for "women workers" and stigma and paternalistic control for "working girls." This chapter argues that both labor process and civil society mobilization lead to differentiated rights in practice for these groups; while migrant factory workers experience an expansion of social and labor rights without attention to their gender-specific needs, migrant hostesses can access only limited protective measures for trafficking victims, which render the women invisible as workers.

7 Between Women Victims and Mother-Citizens
chapter abstract

This chapter explores the divergent paths to rights and dignity in the case of women in feminized sectors of migration—cross-border marriage and hostess work. Migrant wives used their moral status as mothers as a basis to claim citizenship and belonging in South Korea, but migrant hostesses only had limited access to the discourse of gendered victimhood, which prevented their inclusion as either migrant workers or migrant women. This chapter examines how migrants make decisions regarding the practice of rights in relation to the gendered pursuit of moral respect and recognition.

8 (coda): Migrant Rights and Politics of Solidarity
chapter abstract

The coda then takes up the question of why decentering citizenship in the larger pursuit of dignity and security matters for discussions of migrant rights and justice. As the promise of equal rights and full membership in a polity is swiftly eroding in the face of increasing global inequalities, this decentering illuminates contestation at the margins of citizenship. This contestation shifts and remakes the borders of citizenship, re-imagining new possibilities for solidarity.