Elusive Belonging: Marriage Immigrants and “Multiculturalism” in Rural South Korea

Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824892548
Published: November 2021
Hardback: $72.00
ISBN-13: 9780824869816
Published: April 2018

Additional Information

216 pages
  • About the Book
  • Elusive Belonging examines the post-migration experiences of Filipina marriage immigrants in rural South Korea. Marriage migration—crossing national borders for marriage—has attracted significant public and scholarly attention, especially in new destination countries, which grapple with how to integrate marriage migrants and their children and what that integration means for citizenship boundaries and a once-homogenous national identity. In the early twenty-first century many Filipina marriage immigrants arrived in South Korea under the auspices of the Unification Church, which has long served as an institutional matchmaker.

    Based on ethnographic fieldwork, Elusive Belonging examines Filipinas who married rural South Korean bachelors in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Turning away from the common stereotype of Filipinas as victims of domestic violence at the mercy of husbands and in-laws, Minjeong Kim provides a nuanced understanding of both the conflicts and emotional attachments of their relationships with marital families and communities. Her close-up accounts of the day-to-day operations of the state’s multicultural policies and public programs show intimate relationships between Filipinas, South Korean husbands, in-laws, and multicultural agents, and how various emotions of love, care, anxiety, and gratitude affect immigrant women’s fragmented citizenship and elusive sense of belonging to their new country. By offering the perspectives of varied actors, the book reveals how women’s experiences of tension and marginalization are not generated within the family alone; they also reflect the socioeconomic conditions of rural Korea and the state’s unbalanced approach to “multiculturalism.”

    Against a backdrop of the South Korean government’s multicultural policies and projects aimed at integrating marriage immigrants, Elusive Belonging attends to the emotional aspects of citizenship rooted in a sense of belonging. It mediates between a critique of the assimilation inherent in Korea’s “multiculturalism” and the contention that the country’s core identity is shifting from ethnic homogeneity to multiethnic diversity. In the process it shows how marriage immigrants are incorporated into the fabric of Korean society even as they construct new identities as Filipinas in South Korea.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Minjeong Kim, Author

      Minjeong Kim is associate professor in the Department of Sociology at San Diego State University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • In Elusive Belonging, Minjeong Kim does a fascinating job of capturing the ways Filipina wives contribute to South Korea’s diversification, which, in this case, takes place outside of cities and in the countryside. Not only is this book a timely contribution to studies of diversity in South Korea (and Asia more broadly), but it is also an exemplary piece of contemporary ethnography and critical theoretical engagement that should serve as a model for practicing ethnographers. . . . Readers will find Kim’s theory engagement readable and lucid, even to non-specialists. The book would thus make a great addition to introductory classes on ethnography.
      —Paul Capobianco, Hokkaido University, Asian Ethnology, 78:2 (2019)
    • Elusive Belonging is an enriching contribution to the dynamic scholarship on multiculturalism in Korea, immigration, citizenship/belonging, gender, and race/ethnicity/nation. Broadly, the author pursues how marriage immigrants in rural South Korea forge a sense of belonging in the context of a South Korean state that lauds itself as multicultural. More specifically, the author’s analysis of emotions and emotional life as a cornerstone of political belonging is riveting.
      —Nadia Y. Kim, Loyola Marymount University, Cross-Currents, 30 (2019)
    • Elusive Belonging is certain to be of interest to a wide variety of readers with interests in marriage, migration, and multiculturalism. It offers poignant and intimate stories of the marital experiences of Filipino immigrant women and South Korean rural men, and of the challenges and adjustments they face. Carefully contextualized historically and sociologically, Minjeong Kim offers penetrating analysis of marriage migration and of the “multicultural boom” and ensuing “multicultural fatigue” in South Korea.
      —Nicole Constable, author of Born Out of Place: Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor
    • Elusive Belonging offers a rich and real account of the configurations of love in the marriages of migrant Filipino women and rural Korean men. It is an engrossing ethnography of intimacy in our global society. The book illustrates how religious institutions, the state, extended family, and one’s own personal anxieties mediate these marriages into a plurality of experiences.
      —Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, author of Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work
    • Through her rich ethnography of international marriage couples in rural South Korea, Kim reminds us of the danger of victim narrative that can flatten marriage migrants’ experiences, and offers us a new way of thinking about citizenship that is shaped by migrants themselves through a multiplicity of emotions.
      —Da In Choi, New Books Network (Gender Studies)
    • The author presents a detailed, ethnographic field study of South Korea’s growing multiculturalism via international marriages, specifically Filipina brides who are marrying rural Korean husbands. . . . Minjeong Kim [has] written a fresh and sensitive study of Korean intercountry marriages, and the concerns of multiculturalism.
      —Bill Drucker, Korean Quarterly (Spring 2021)
    • Kim’s ambitious study offers a nuanced insight into a new multicultural Korea seen from the perspectives and experiences of Filipina marriage immigrants. Although it is a bit worrying that Korea’s ppal’li mentality has resulted in a makeshift multiculturalism that does not really work in practice, Kim’s book is a valuable tool to help understand this phenomenon.
      —Tobias Hübinette, Karlstad University, Acta Koreana, 21:2 (December 2018)
    • The many trajectories that Kim retraces include some of departure—a term she prefers to escape—toward the book’s end. Even then, her emphasis remains on the diversity and complexity of Filipina women’s lived experiences, making Elusive Belonging a necessary read for anyone interested in the marriage immigrants’ side of the story—a story of ‘immigration for marriage’ rather than ‘marriage for immigration’ that Kim convincingly chooses to tell in the plural rather than in the singular.
      —Justine Guichard, Université de Paris, The Newsletter (IIAS), 86 (Summer 2020)
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