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Title: Being a "Soviet Korean" in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan
Author: Shin, Jayoung Francesca-Maria
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis examines what it means to be a "Soviet Korean" in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. The majority of Koreans in Alma-Ata are the historical result of two displacements, having first migrated to Russia since the nineteenth century and then being deported to Kazakhstan in 1937 by Stalin. The repression was followed by decades of confinement in collective farms. The unlikely Korean presence in Central Asia was to be unveiled to the outside world after glasnost, and a change in the international political climate around the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games resulted in unprecedented encounters between the Soviet Korean diaspora community and other Korean visitors. My fieldwork began shortly afterwards, capturing the historical moment of this hitherto unknown section of the Korean diaspora. Reflecting the minority's history of persecution and isolation, it is not surprising to find high levels of linguistic and cultural "Russification". However, the Soviet Koreans constantly compare themselves with "others" and keep a distinct boundary. Following Bloch (1998), I argue for the importance of exploring socio-cultural reproduction in implicit domains. Thus sharing and transmitting cultural identity and memory is not so dependent on languages, narratives and formal education alone. Rather, aspects of "being Korean" are constantly found and reinforced within the community in aspects such as management of resources, articulation of cultural symbols, ways of communication, and sensorial preferences. I concentrate on their history, community dynamics, parent and child relationship, dietary practice, way of communicating and implicit and emotional aspects of "being Korean". I elucidate both the experiences and representations of the diaspora covering from pre-migration days in Korea to the present in the new state of Kazakhstan. Korean agricultural and Confucian root is favourably contrasted to the nomadic Kazakh traditions, yet it also bears the stigma of marginality in a Soviet context. Thus "Soviet Koreanness" reflects the traditions of the early migrants which are open to constant repositioning through dialogue with other Korean influences and ethnic groups. Food and culinary practice in its production and consumption is one of such areas where categories of ethnicity and gender get expressed and boundaries are maintained. Strong emotional responses are noted as they are triggered by sensory experiences and associations. In the section on family I single out the significance of parent-child relationships and associated ideology and emotions. Parental sacrifice, filial piety and guilt are specific parts of "being" a Korean. Education as ethnic identifier, and symbolic component for Korean personhood is examined in an intergenerational context. Finally, I explore Korean emphasis on non-verbal and implicit ways of communication and examine their relationship with notions of personhood, morality and ethnic identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available