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Korea and Global Migration Conference • Information

Backgound. Prior to the1990’s, South Korea was perceived as a homogenous and highly insulated society. This perception, however, is no longer as tenable as it once was. Indeed, because of large-scale and increasingly pervasive migration by workers across the globe, ethnic homogeneity and cultural/social insulation may no longer be an option for any but the most autarkic society. Of course, this has long been the case, but, today, transnational labor migration—spurred on by the ever widening and deepening processes of "globalization"—is inexorably and, in many cases, dramatically reshaping societies, countries, and cultures in virtually every corner of the world. South Korea is no exception. Today, in fact, South Korea is host to as many as 500,000 transnational workers from every continent and at least 50 countries, a significant number of whom have already settled or will seek to settle in Korea on a more or less permanent basis. It is fairly clear, moreover, that the transnational migration and immigration of workers to and across South Korea will not only continue, but become an increasingly more significant—and extremely contentious—issue, economically, politically, and socially. This is not solely because of sheer numbers, but also because transnational labor migration gives rise to an almost unavoidable and potentially explosive tension between the "host" societies and the workers themselves. That is, the "value" of transnational labor comes not only from the jobs they fill, but in the ability of the host society to exploit, oppress, and subordinate these workers. In a global society in which human rights and democracy have become very powerful (although not always compatible) forces, however, the raw exploitation and oppression of any people has become less and less tenable. Given this situation, greater and more systematic attention to the issue is not only advisable, but necessary.This conference, therefore, will examine, from a cross-disciplinary and comparative perspective, the economic, political, and socio-cultural "challenges" posed by the influx of transnational migrants to South Korea. The conference will look both at responses to transnational labor migration on the part of the Korean state, business, and civil society, and at responses by transnational workers themselves.

Conference Participants. We have invited a very small group of scholars and experts to participate in the conference. Confirmed participants are as follows:

Seol Dong-Hoon, Dept. of Sociology, Chonbuk National University
Park Kyung Tae, Dept. of Social Science, Sungkonghoe University
Yu Kil-sang, Vice President, Korea Labor Institute
Choi Hong-yop, College of Law, Chosun University
John Skrentny, Dept. of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
Yong Wook Lee, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

Kim Misun,Chairperson, Executive Committee, Joint Committee on Migrant Workers in Korea and Secretary General, Medical Mutual-Aid Union for Migrant Workers in Korea
June Lee, Migration Policy Research Department, International Organization for Migration (Geneva)
Kim Nam Kil (Michael), Dept. of East Asian Languages and Culture, USC
• Denis Woo-Seon Kim, Dept. of Sociology, UC San Diego
Keiko Yamanaka, UC Berkeley (Discussant)
Mary Yu Danico, Dept. of Psychology and Sociology, Cal Poly Pomona (Discussant)
Chang Yun-shik, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Univ. of British Columbia (Discussant)
Timothy Lim, Dept. of Political Science, CSU Los Angeles (Conference Director)
Yu Eui-young (Jim), Dept. of Sociology, CSU Los Angeles (Discussant)

Although participation in the conference will be primarily by invitation, scholars, advanced Ph.D. students, and others working on the issue of transnational migration are welcomed to send inquiries about participation. A limited amount of funds may be available to cover travel and/or lodging expenses. Please send inquires directly the conference director, Prof. Timothy C. Lim at

Date and Location

Date: December 11, 2004 (Saturday)

* On Friday evening, December 10, 2004, all participants and invited guests are invited to a dinner hosted by the Korean Studies Institute/East Asian Studies Center on the campus of USC

Time: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Oxford Palace Hotel.
745 S. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Tel: (213) 389-8000


Click here for map to the Oxford Palace Hotel

Papers and Agenda. Please click here to see the tentative conference schedule and paper topics. The conference organizers plan to publish selected papers from this conference as an anthology through a major academic press. All papers will be subject to a peer review process and, once accepted, to editing by the conference director and one or two additional co-editors (to be determined). In addition, papers not included in the published book, may (with the authors’ permission) be "published" on the Center for Korean-American and Korean Studies web site as PDF files. Working copies of conference papers may also be posted here, again, with the author's permission.

Sponsorship. This conference has been made possible by a generous grant from the Korea Research Foundation and the co-sponsorhip from the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California. The Center for Korean-American and Korean Studies at CSU Los Angeles is the host and organizer of the conference.

Contacts. For further information, please contact Professor Timothy C. Lim:

Timothy C. Lim
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Associate Director, Center for Korean American and Korean Studies
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90032

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This page last updated on Monday, September 11, 2006 at 4:55 PM