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Title: Talking culture, silencing 'race', enriching the nation : the politics of multiculturalism in South Korea
Author: Yuk, Joowon
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 6483
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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In South Korea, believed to be one of the most racially and culturally homogeneous nation-states, ‘multiculturalism’ has emerged, since the mid-2000s, as a discursive space within which migrant incorporation and racial/cultural diversity are discussed. Despite the proliferation of multicultural discourses and policy developments, issues of racism have not come to the fore in Korea, not only in the practices of policymaking but also in scholarly work. This thesis problematises this absence and interrogates the contingent configuration of contemporary multiculturalism and racialised nationalism. To achieve this, it starts out by questioning the entrenched idea of Korea’s ‘racial irrelevance’ and the persistent decoupling of nationalism and racism. The thesis employs open-ended, semi-structured in-depth interviews as its key method. A total of forty-five interviews were conducted with various social actors, who actively respond to the multiculturalisation of Korean society, in their role as migrant rights activists, government agencies, media personnel, (far-right) anti-multiculturalists, and migrants. By drawing on the analysis of these interviews and other complementary sources (historical documents, white papers, media reports, and anti-multiculturalists’ online communities), the thesis particularly focuses on the following three aspects of the Korean application of multiculturalism. Firstly, how multiculturalism works as a euphemism for race – emblematic in the employment of the term ‘multicultural’ as a pseudo-racial category – and how this euphemistic development works reciprocally with the disavowal of racism. Secondly, it reflects on how ‘culture’, in this tendency of multicultural politics, is utilised in constructing differences, constituting the dynamics of in/exclusion, and accumulating individual and national capital. Lastly, the thesis demonstrates the fragility and contradictions of celebratory multicultural discourses, imbricated with neoliberal subjectivity and strongly inflected by a social Darwinist ethos. In conceptualising multiculturalism as the politics of hush in South Korea, this project not only carves out a new research space for the critical analysis of ‘race’ and racism in Korean academia but also contributes to expanding our understanding of the politics of multiculturalism particularly in relation to the global discourse of ‘post-racial’ society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HT Communities. Classes. Races