Evgenia An

Transnational Settlement Practices of Koryo-Saram Labor Migrants in South Korea: The Interplay of Formal and Informal Social Protection

How do migrants make settlement plans and do these plans change when implemented? How do migrants change decisions, when faced with certain formal and informal social protection structures? The project proposes the multiple case-studies research on Russian-speaking Koreans, or koryo-saram as transnational migrants in South Korea and their settlement decisions in the context of inequalities they face. The main question of the project is how the plans and adaptation strategies of people change as they face the inequalities in their search for employment, accommodation, social security and other settlement practices. The project particularly investigates how the assemblages of formal (based on legal acts, state welfare policies) and informal (kinship and friendship based social network) social protection, as well as agency characteristics (prone to change, agile goal setting, entrepreneurial abilities and independence in decision-making) and the role of gender-specific responsibilities in the life-course affect the settlement practices of the migrants.

Using multi-sited research technique, transnational approach, grounded theory and the multiple case-studies as the main research strategy I will try to find out the systemic outcomes of certain settlement decision-making schemes. The interviews will be respectively conducted transnationally in Korea and home-countries of the migrants (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia/Ukraine). The data collection will be carried out in two rounds of interviews. The first round will be done among potential migrants in home-countries and will aim at theoretical sampling of the koryo-saram migrants, namely, to find out general intentions of executing the process of migration. The second round of interviews will aim at comparing and analyzing the intentions and real behavior of migrants in South Korea in the process of settlement after coming to South Korea.

The main question of the proposed project is how and to which extent both formal and informal social protection contribute to the social incorporation of koryo-saram migrants in South Korea, and especially, how the individual positions of migrants and their agency is influenced by their age, gender, education, transnational life-course trajectory. The novelty of this case study is in applying transnational social protection lens on one of the East Asian contexts, therefore changing the euro-centrism of the transnational studies on migration and welfare that exist by far.

Key words and concepts: Koryo-saram diaspora in South Korea, economic migration, social inequalities, social protection arrangement, life chances, heterogeneities of migrants, transnationality, transnational social spaces, social remittances, migration-development nexus, diaspora migration, institutional change.