Borderland Dreams: The Transnational Lives of Korean Chinese Workers
June Hee Kwon (Cultural Anthropology, Sacramento State University)
In Borderland Dreams, June Hee Kwon explores the trajectory of the “Korean dream” that has fueled the massive migration of Korean Chinese workers from the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in northeast China to South Korea since the early 1990s.
Charting the interplay of bodies, money, and time, the ethnography reveals how these migrant workers, in the course of pursuing their borderland dreams, are transformed into a transnational ethnicized class. Kwon analyzes the persistent desire of Korean Chinese to “leave to live better” at the intersection between the neoliberalizing regimes of post-socialist China and post–Cold War South Korea.
Scrutinizing the tensions and affinities among the Korean Chinese, North and South Koreans, and Han Chinese whose lives intertwine in the borderland, Kwon captures the diverse and multifaceted aspirations of Korean Chinese workers caught between the ascendant Chinese dream and the waning Korean dream.
About the speaker
June Hee Kwon is associate professor in the Asian Studies Program at California State University Sacramento. Dr. Kwon, trained as a cultural anthropologist, has focused on Korean diaspora and transnational migration, borderlands and political ecology, materiality and affect, gendered labor and class formation, and human suffering and memories in her teaching and research.
Her area of expertise spans contemporary Korea (North and South), China, and Japan and includes postcolonial and post-Cold War culture and political economy across East Asia.
In addition to several journal articles on transnational migration, Dr. Kwon published her first book, Borderland Dreams: The Transnational Lives of Korean Chinese Workers (Duke University Press) in 2023.