Panel IV: “Shaping Rights for New and Non-Citizens” (2018 Signature Conference)

Panel IV: “Shaping Rights for New and Non-Citizens”


“The Rights of Non-Citizenship: Migrant Hierarchies in South Korea”

Erin Aeran Chung, Johns Hopkins University

Instead of a “sharp distinction between citizen and non-citizen,” postwar immigration has contributed to the development of “a continuum of rights attached to membership of a state,” as Zig Layton-Henry noted in a seminal essay. Far from the ideal of universal citizenship, this model encompasses specific rights associated with different levels of membership among citizens and noncitizens. In countries where noncitizens range from migrant laborers with almost no rights to native-born foreign residents who are generations removed from their immigrant ancestry, visa categories are critical determinants of a migrant’s eligibility for state-sponsored rights and services. This paper will examine how the growth of multiple visa categories created to accommodate labor shortages within South Korea’s restrictive immigration regime has led to the development of noncitizen hierarchies that have become the basis for how migrants relate to the state, mobilize themselves, and voice their collective interests.


“Human Rights, Contested Citizenship, and Diasporic Development: Explaining Global Policies toward North Korean Refugee Resettlement”

Sheena Chestnut Greitens, University of Missouri

Most North Korean refugees and defectors live in South Korea. In the past decade, however, a growing number have sought to move beyond the Korean peninsula, resettling instead in North America, Europe, and other locations around the world. This presentation examines the factors that have contributed to the emergence of this new, global North Korean diaspora. It contends that contestation over conceptions of citizenship, at both the level of the individual and the level of government policy, have collectively shaped the migration and resettlement of North Korean defectors and refugees over time and across geographic space. These changes in resettlement patterns, in turn, have significant implications not only for the human security of individuals and families from North Korea, but for global policy toward the DPRK.


“How North Koreans Understand the Rights and Responsibilities of Democratic Citizenship: Implications for Political Integration”

Aram Hur, New York University

How do North Korean defectors adapt to democracy, and to what effect on democratic citizenship in the host state? I focus on a formative and likely critical step in the process: how such individuals make sense of their newfound democratic rights and responsibilities. I examine how recent North Korean defectors in South Korea understand and talk about democratic citizenship. Discourse analysis of 31 personal narratives and 20 paired debates reveals a counterintuitive phenomenon. Most defectors hold a deeply communal, nationalist script socialized in the authoritarian North. For those who strongly identify with South Koreans, this communitarian approach is extended toward South Korea, framing new democratic roles as a matter of duty. Those with weak identification rely on a heavily contractual, rights-based approach instead. The findings highlight national identification as an important driver of political integration and show how a common aspect of authoritarian socialization surprisingly shapes the contours of democratic citizenship in host states.


Panel IV Discussion

In response to Panel IV: “Shaping Rights for New and Non-Citizens,” discussant Hae Yeon Choo offered comments on each of the papers about the rights of migrants in Korea. She wanted to make sure that the participants were informed about the normative assumptions involved that build on binaries about citizenship, and how to critically interrogate these as well as identify the institutional mechanisms that enact them. Erin Chung agreed with the discussant, and added that she would include a focus on agency to incorporate the notion of duty among the citizens and noncitizens of her survey. Sheena Greitens stated in agreement that it is important to overcome the normative assumptions about human rights refugees when studying their cases. Finally, Aram Hur acknowledged the importance of the explanatory power of subjective identifications of the interviewees, and agreed to distinguish between the archetypal manifestations of her “neat” categories of citizenship.

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