Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Between the late 1950s and the 1970s slightly more than 10,000 South Korean young women migrated to former West Germany (hereafter Germany) to work in healthcare institutions. Though these movements were initially intended as temporary labour migration, some of the guest workers remained and formed a family in Germany, and others returned to their country of origin or moved on to a third country. This study delves into homeland memories of South Korean female health care workers who migrated to Germany as “guest workers” or as trainees.
Mobility, memory and identity are closely interrelated. Migrants’ memories and their narratives of the past, together with their lived experiences, are often utilised to shape and reshape their identity, their sense of belonging, and their sense of “home”. Furthermore, memories are embedded in social practices of migrants and crafted in social contexts of the present. This current work investigates the way the memories of the Korean healthcare workers shape and are shaped by mobility and identity in time and space.
As there are few documented lived experiences of mobility and memory practices of the Korean migrants in Germany, this study strives to fill a gap in the explanations of the transnational mobility and memory of this Korean migrant group, and its influence in shaping and reshaping their identity.
The paper follows an ethnographic method including in-depth life history interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017 with fifteen former Korean nurses or nurse assistants who worked in Germany and settled down in the host land.