Heartstrings to the homeland : evolving ethnic identities among the Korean diaspora in China, Russia, and Japan

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2013-12
Authors
Lee, Chungjoon
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2013]
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Abstract
This study focuses on the evolution of diaspora identities among Koreans living in the diverse settings of China, Russia, and Japan. Various theories are used to examine how this diaspora constructs and expresses its ethnic identities such as: ethnic boundaries, memory, the Other, and transnationalism. The Koreans in China (called Chosŏnjok) employed ethnic boundaries to develop their identity while straddling various real and imagined borders (e.g., physical, ideological and cultural). The Koreans in Russia (called Koryŏsaram) used their memories of the homeland and their own historical experiences in order to anchor their communities amid competing currents of cultures and nationalities. The Koreans in Japan (called Zainichi) created their identity by deconstructing their position as the outsider "Other" imposed on them by Japanese society. The Korean diaspora expressed transnationalism in its attitudes and actions, so this study will examine the diaspora groups' interactions with each other and with the Korean homeland in the post-1919 period, the Korean War, and in recent decades in order to assess how transnational contacts help shape their identities. These theories, along with other key ideas such as positionality, voice, and choice reveal that ethnicity is not just a cultural expression, but also a political tool, a crux in power relations, and a symbol of nationalism. A diaspora's ethnic identity is a complex phenomenon involving multiple loyalties, hybrid expressions of culture, and unique historical circumstances. Such a view challenges Korea's primordial understanding of ethnicity and also the South Korean government's political ideology that all Koreans--no matter where they live--are "one people." The diaspora groups' experiences prove that they cannot be boxed into the master narrative of South Korea as overseas Koreans, nor can they be relegated to the footnotes of the national histories of China, Japan, and Russia as ethnic minorities. We must look beyond the imposed categories of belonging and examine how the diaspora's own histories reveal agency, hybridity, modernity, networks, relationships, emotions, and the struggle to define one's place in life. Through the Korean diaspora, this study embarks on a transnational journey across the generations to answer the basic question: "Who am I"?
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Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Koreans, diaspora, China, Russia, Japan, ethnic identity
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). History.
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