"The Cost of Belonging: An Ethnography of Solidarity and Mobility in Beijing’s Koreatown"

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The Korean Studies Research Network and International Programs will present a virtual lecture by guest speaker Sharon J. Yoon entitled "The Cost of Belonging: An Ethnography of Solidarity and Mobility in Beijing’s Koreatown" on Friday, Sept. 2, from noon - 1:30 p.m. (CST), via Zoom.

This event is free and open to the public.

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Sharon J. Yoon is an assistant professor of Korean studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and is an ethnographer who specializes in Korean diasporic communities. Prior to joining the faculty at Notre Dame, Yoon was a Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the James Joo-Jin Kim Center for Korean Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at Osaka University, and an assistant professor at the Graduate School of International Studies at Ewha Woman's University. Yoon was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2021. Her work has been published by prominent journals such as the Ethnic and Racial Studies, the Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Politics & Society. In addition to her academic research, she has worked with think-tanks such as the Korea Economic Institute and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, as well as local grassroots organizations in Asia.

In the past 10 years, China has rapidly emerged as South Korea’s most important economic partner. With the surge of goods and resources between the two countries, large waves of Korean migrants have opened small ethnic firms in Beijing’s Koreatown, turning a once barren wasteland into one of the largest Korean enclaves in the world. The Cost of Belonging: An Ethnography of Solidarity and Mobility in Beijing’s Koreatown is an in-depth ethnographic study that investigates how Korean Chinese cultural brokers, South Korean entrepreneurs, and South Korean expats negotiate their class and ethnic identities in their everyday lives in the enclave.

The book engages with the growing literature on diasporic Koreans who have started to form stronger transnational ties with South Korea following the government’s efforts to build a more global Korean polity as a strategy to galvanize its faltering economy in the late 1990s. It diverges from past studies of the Korean diaspora, however, by stressing the role of corporate interests and multinational firms in shaping not only inequality on a global scale, but also notions of ethnic belonging in overseas communities. The book argues that the power of the chaebol extends far beyond shaping labor relations and income inequality. South Korean conglomerates are powerful precisely because they shape spaces of interaction, and have privileged access to the moral and cultural resources that mold how Koreans view and negotiate their identities. Along these lines, The Cost of Belonging demonstrates the persisting impact that physical spaces have in shaping the social and economic lives of migrants in this global era.

This event is generously funded by the Korea Foundation.

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