Ethnic Chinese in South Korea: Interplay Between Ethnicity, Nationality, and Citizenship

  • Sang-Hui NamEmail author
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT, volume 5)


This paper aims to explore historical changes in the citizenship status of ethnic Chinese in South Korea. The first stage, from 1882 to 1948, was characterized by strong influences of Confucian familism. Koreans perceived ethnic Chinese immigrants simply as a different clan or family. Although both sides were strictly separated, they respected each other. The second stage, which lasted until the 1990s, could be described as an ongoing struggle for either inclusion or exclusion of the Chinese minority in the South Korean nation-state. The implementation of an ethnic-based nationality in South Korea legally excluded the ethnic Chinese from participation in the social, political, and economic life of South Korean society. In the third stage, the period since the 1990s, the impact of democratization and globalization took public discussions about a more comprehensive concept of citizenship and nationality beyond ethnicity. Based on historical analysis, this paper comes to the conclusion that the formation of the nation-state in the late 1940s and early 1950s represents a critical juncture for the ethnic Chinese community in South Korea. However, after the democratic regime change in 1987, the concept of citizenship profoundly changed. It appears that membership in the South Korean nation-state did not depend on a single principle; the discussion was, rather, characterized by a sometimes fierce competition between different concepts of citizenship and participation.


Qing Dynasty Citizenship Status Global Civil Society Chinese School Chinese Resident 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Chang, K.-S. 2007. “The End of Developmental Citizenship? Restructuring and Social Displacement in Post-Crisis South Korea”. Economic & Political Weekly, 15 December, 67–72.Google Scholar
  2. Chang, K.-S. 2010. South Korea under Compressed Modernity. Familial political economy in transition. London and New York, Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Choe, H. 2006. “National identity and citizenship in the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea”. Journal of Historical Sociology 19 (1), 84–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Choi, S. 2001. Gender, ethnicity, market forces, and college choices: Observations of ethnic Chinese in Korea. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Choi, S. 2008. “Politics, commerce, and construction of Chinese ‘Otherness’ in Korea: Open Port Period (1876–1910)”. In At home in the Chinese Diaspora: Memories, identities and belongings, Eds. K. E. Kuah-Pearce and A. P. Davidson, 128–145. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Crowley, J. 1996. “European integration: sociological process or political project? Innovation”. The European Journal of Social Sciences 9 (2), 149–160.Google Scholar
  7. Crowley, J. 1998. “The national dimension of citizenship” in T. H. Marshall. Citizenship Studies 2 (2), 165–178.Google Scholar
  8. Giulianotti, R., and R. Robertson. 2007. Forms of glocalization: Globalization and the migration strategies of Scottish football fans in North America. Sociology 41 (1), 133–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hulbert, H. B. 1969. The passing of Korea. (Reprint of the 1906 edition, with a new foreword). Seoul: Yonsei University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jang, S.-H. 2004. “Han’guk hwagyo ŭi hyŏnsil gwa dochŏn” (Realities and challenges of Chinese Koreans). In Han’guk ŭi sosucha, siltae wa chŏnmang (Minorities in South Korea, conditions and perspectives), Eds. H. Choi, et al., 261–279. Seoul: Hanul.Google Scholar
  11. Kern, T. 2005. Südkoreas Pfad zur Demokratie: Modernisierung, Protest, Regimewechsel. Frankfurt/M.: Campus.Google Scholar
  12. Kim Haboush, J. H., and M. Deuchler (Eds.). 1999. Culture and the state in late Chosŏn Korea. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center.Google Scholar
  13. Ku, A. S. 2002. “Beyond the paradoxical conception of ‘Civil Society without Citizenship’”. International Sociology 17 (4), 529–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ku, A. S. 2004a. “Negotiating the space of civil autonomy in Hong Kong – Power, discourses, and dramaturgical representations”. The China Quarterly 179, 647–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ku, A. S. 2004b. “Negotiating law, rights, and civil autonomy. From the colonial to the post-colonial regimes”. In Remaking citizenship in Hong Kong: Community, nation and the global city, Eds. A. S. Ku and N. Pun, 157–174. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon.Google Scholar
  16. Lee, C. 2008a. “Chugwŏn ŭi tal yŏngto hwa wa chae yŏngto hwa. Ichung kukchŏk ŭi norli” (The deterritorialization and reterriorialization of sovereignty. The logic of dual nationality). Han’guk sahoe hak 42 (1), 27–61.Google Scholar
  17. Lee, C. 2008b. “Tal gukga chŏk simin gwŏn ŭn chonchae hanŭn ga?” (Does the postnational citizenship exist?). Kyŏngche wa sahoe 79, 62–87.Google Scholar
  18. Lee, Y.-H. 2004. “Inchŏn kŏchu hwagyo ŭi ingwŏn siltae wa chŏngch‘e sŏng” (Human rights situation and identity of hwagyo in Inchŏn). In Han’guk ŭi sosucha, siltae wa chŏnmang (Minorities in South Korea, conditions and perspectives), Eds. H. Choi et al., 296–317. Seoul: Hanul.Google Scholar
  19. Mahoney J. 2001. “Path-dependent explanations of regime change: Central America in comparative perspective”. Studies in Comparative International Development 36 (1), 111–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Marshall, T. H. 1992. “Citizenship and Social Class”. In Citizenship and Social Class, Eds. T. H. Marshall and T. Bottomore, 1–51. London: Pluto Perspectives.Google Scholar
  21. Ministry of Justice 2002. Ch’urip guk kwalli tongge yonbo (Statistical Yearbook of Immigration Office). Republic of Korea.Google Scholar
  22. Mitra, S. K. 2008. “Level playing fields: The post-colonial state, democracy, courts and citizenship in India”. German Law Journal 9 (3), 343–366.Google Scholar
  23. Nam, S.-H. 2010. “The women’s movement and the transformation of the family law in South Korea”. European Journal of East Asian Studies 9 (1), 67–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Park, E.-K. 1981. “Hwagyo ŭi chŏngch’ak gwa idong: Han’guk ŭi kyŭngu” (Settlement and mobility of Chinese Koreans: The Korean case). Dissertation, Dep. of Sociology. Ehwa Woman’s University, South Korea.Google Scholar
  25. Park, E.-K. 1986. “Han’guk hwagyo ŭi chongchok sŏng” (The ethnicity of Korean Chinese). Seoul: Han’guk yŏguwŏn.Google Scholar
  26. Park, H.-O. and J.-D. Park. 2003. “Han’guk hwagyo (Inchŏn hwagyo) ŭi gyŏngche hwaldong gwa sahoe chŏk chiwi e gwanhan yŏngu” (Study on economic activities and social status of Korean hwagyo (Inchŏn hwagyo). Report of Inchŏn Development Institute.Google Scholar
  27. Park, K.-T. 2004. “Han’guk sahoe ŭi hwagyo dŭri nŭkki nŭn ch’abyŏl ŭi suchun” (Discrimination level felt by Chinese Koreans in Korean society). In Han’guk ŭi sosucha, siltae wa chŏnmang (Minorities in South Korea, conditions and perspectives) Eds. H. Choi et al., 280–295. Seoul: Hanul.Google Scholar
  28. Park, K.-T. 2008. “Sosucha wa han’guk sahoe. Ichu nodong cha – hwagyo – honhyŏrin” (Minorities and Korean society. Migrant workers – Chinese Korean – multiracial). Seoul: Huminata.Google Scholar
  29. Park, K.-T., et al. 2003. Guknae gŏchu hwagyo ingwŏn siltae chosa (Investigation on human rights situation of Chinese residents in South Korea). National Human Rights Commission of Korea.Google Scholar
  30. Pohlmann, M. 2006. “Globalisierung und Modernisierung – Zentrale Annahmen der Globalisierungstheorien auf dem Prüfstand”. In Die Vielfalt und Einheit der Moderne: Kultur- und struktur-vergleichende Analysen, Ed. T. Schwinn, 165–183. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rhee, Y. J. 2009. “Diversity within Chinese diaspora: Old and new Huaqiao residents in South Korea”. In Diasporas: Critical and inter-disciplinary perspectives, Ed. J. Fernandez, 111–126. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press.Google Scholar
  32. Schimank, U. 1996. Theorien gesellschaftlicher Differenzierung. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schwinn, T. 2001. Staatliche Ordnung und Moderne Sozialintegration. KZfSS 53 (2), 211–232.Google Scholar
  34. Seol, D.-H., and J. D. Skrentny 2009. “Ethnic return migration and hierarchical nationhood: Korean Chinese foreign workers in South Korea”. Ethnicities 9 (2), 147–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shin, G.-W. 2006. Ethnic nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, politics, and legacy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Turner, B. S. 2008. Citizenship, reproduction and the state; international marriage and human rights. Citizenship Studies 12 (1), 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yang, P.-S., and J.-H. Yi. 2004. Chinatown ŏm nŭn nara: Han’guk hwagyo gyŏngche ŭi ŏche wa onŭl (A country without a Chinatown: Yesterday and today of the Overseas Chinese economy in Korea). Seoul: Samsŏng gyŏngche yŏngu so.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.HeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations