Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Return to the Future: South Koreans in Beijing in Pursuit of Top Korean Universities Back Home

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Jacaranda II, First Floor

This paper explores how migrant families evolve a pragmatic logic of migration through the future-making project of sending the younger generation to pursue degrees at top universities in their home country. The study starts with a premise that homo economicus is not so much an essential attribute as a process of social interaction. Drawing on multi-scalar ethnography as a method, this study illustrates how choices and strategies are made to pursue a brighter future by migrant family members, who are entangled with familial relations, Korean educational institutions in China and the regimes of migration and education in both host and home countries. This process occurs on transnational, national and local scales. The motivations to return, initially, are manifested as a compromise to the economic capital that a family possesses and the corporate culture in the home country, and as a conscious resistance to the rigorous immigration regimes in China. To maximize the outcomes of returning, migrant mothers tend to play a central role in the trade-off between their husbands’ careers and their children’s education. They lead family members in meticulously adjusting the time they stay overseas for the purpose of winning eligibility for their children in accordance with the Korean university admission policy for “overseas Korean nationals” (chaeoegungmin'g). The family strategies are also subject to the engagement of Korean formal and informal educational institutions in China. The conclusion discusses the capability of migrant families in reconciling contentious individuals’ interest and creating the entire family’s future through the return journey.

Xiao Ma

Leiden University, Netherlands

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