"Transnationalism and ‘Third Culture Kids’: A Comparative Analysis of Korean American and Korean Chinese Identity Construction" by Helene K. Lee

This paper examines the impact of return migration to South Korea on the formation of hybrid ethnic identities in two immigrant communities, Korean Chinese (Joseonjok) and Korean Americans, within the Korean diaspora that emerge from two different state policies concerning ethnic minorities.  I explore how migration histories out of Korea impact the creation of stable Korean immigrant communities abroad and how these communities reproduce lifestyles and identities closely linked to the homeland by incorporating aspects of what it means to be “Korean,” embedded in a specific history, culture and tradition.  The findings are based on empirical data collected from semi-structured interviews conducted with 63 research participants, supplemented by informal conversations and participant observation during a 16-month fieldwork period in Seoul, South Korea between August 2004 and December 2005.  A comparative analysis of ethnic identity construction within the US assimilationist model and Joseonjok within a Chinese state protectionist model sheds light on the everyday negotiations of transnational “third culture kids” with ethnicity, nationality and gender ideologies.  The thread throughout the interviews is the struggle of cultural hybridity, of inhabiting a liminal space between two distinct national identities but linked to a diaspora through a sense of shared ethnic identity. 

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