Making a 'Multicultural Special Zone' : Multiculturalism in South Korea

Choi, Jihyun and Sayer, Andrew and Fortier, Anne-Marie (2021) Making a 'Multicultural Special Zone' : Multiculturalism in South Korea. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis contributes to research on urban and everyday multiculture by exploring an ethnically diverse, working-class neighbourhood – Wongok-dong in South Korea – from a cultural and political economic perspective. Wongok-dong, a commercial and residential neighbourhood located in an industrial city, Ansan, is one of the most diverse areas in the country with migrants coming from different ethnic, cultural and national backgrounds, largely from Asia – for example, from China, Vietnam and Uzbekistan. Over the last decade, the local government has promoted this area as a Damunhwa (multicultural) Special Zone, as part of an urban revitalisation project. The aim of the study is to understand how the multicultural is imagined, institutionally and spatially materialised, and practiced and experienced in this area. More specifically, it asks two questions: first, what are the political and economic forces underpinning the process of establishing the Damunhwa Special Zone? Second, how do the residents experience and evaluate the changes brought about by multiculturalism? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Wongokdong, the thesis examines the analytically independent but practically interdependent relationship between cultural and economic dimensions in the process of the multicultural city/place making, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the main concerns of the residents living in the multicultural environment. I argue that Wongok-dong has been transformed into a place that welcomes migrants and yet is segregated and racialised, showing the discrepancy between the rhetoric of a multicultural city and the material reality and lived experiences of the city. The thesis highlights the conjunction of multicultural and neoliberal elements in shaping a local multicultural place and the role of everyday evaluations in (re-)producing the ethnic and ‘racial’ relations of a culturally diverse society.

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Thesis (PhD)
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07 Jan 2022 09:30
Last Modified:
14 Nov 2023 00:32