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This chapter examines 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 rights hierarchies. I focus on three visa categories that represent the largest migrant groups in Korea: migrant workers, co-ethnic migrants, and so-called marriage migrants. Migrant claims to rights overlap with those made by citizens in their fundamental conceptions of human dignity and their appeals for state protections. But the scope of their claims has tended to be specific to their migrant subcategories or visa statuses: labor protections for migrant workers, equality among co-ethnic migrants, and state protections for marriage migrants. Even within the single national context of Korea, the struggle for rights by one migrant group does not necessarily make their claimed rights universal, or even accessible, to others.
Why do some countries enact structural reforms to accommodate large-scale immigration while others maintain exclusionary policies? Why do some states expand migrant rights while others curtail them? Based largely on European and North American case studies, the dominant scholarship on immigration and citizenship has focused on three types of variables: culture, domestic political elites, and international norms. These works tend to assume that the countries in question have relatively open immigration policies to begin with and thus do not sufficiently explain patterns among so-called negative cases of immigration. Recent studies focusing on East Asia point us toward an important intervening variable: civil society. But the presence of civil society alone does not explain divergent immigrant incorporation patterns. Rather than assume that civil-society actors are unified in their goals, world views, or strategies, I introduce the concept of civic legacies to refer to the ideas, networks, and strategies applied in past struggles for democratic inclusion that differentially shape the direction of immigrant incorporation and the potential for structural reform.
Since 2005, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have competed with each other for the less-than-desirable distinction of having the world’s fastest aging population, lowest birthrate, and most rapidly shrinking workforce. While maintaining relatively restrictive immigration policies toward labor migration, government officials in all three countries have proactively recruited female migrants for one specific national shortage: marriage partners for the growing numbers of unmarried men largely in rural areas. As a result, migrant women married to native citizens, known as “marriage migrants,” have become one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in each country. I argue that gendered migration has challenged long-held conceptions of blood-based belonging and membership in each country and subsequently created a political opening for policy reform. In particular, the fit between civic legacies in each country – emerging from previous efforts to incorporate Korean residents in Japan, women in Korea, and indigenous populations in Taiwan – and the concerns of migrant women and their bicultural children gave advocacy efforts for this population added urgency and political capital.
Even as political elites in Europe and North America have increasingly raised doubts about its viability, East Asian democracies have converged in their embrace of the catchword, “multiculturalism,” among policymakers and the public alike to mark the advent of social diversity. This chapter examines the emergence of three distinct frameworks for immigrant incorporation in East Asia based on variants of multiculturalism: “multicultural coexistence” in Japan in which nationality is the basis for categorizing diversity; hierarchical multiculturalism in South Korea whereby visa categories have become the basis for noncitizen hierarchies; and contested multiculturalism in Taiwan notable for the exclusion of migrant workers and the Sinicization of migrant spouses. I argue that, despite their common terminology, the variants of multiculturalism developing in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan continue to reflect their respective civic legacies. This chapter also compares rates of naturalization and permanent residency acquisition among immigrants in the three countries and discusses the growing backlash to specific immigrant groups in each country.
A comparative analysis of three East Asian democracies that represent what is commonly characterized as an “exclusionary” model of immigration and citizenship regimes draws attention to the gaps between policy intent, interpretation, and outcomes. Whereas national immigration policies established the parameters for legal entry, employment, and length of stay, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan’s civic legacies presented the opportunities and hurdles for migrants and their supporters to give voice to their interests, make claims to the state, and form solidarity networks. While national culture, political elites, and civil-society actors are critical for understanding differences in immigrant incorporation patterns among similarly situated countries, we need to further examine the ideas, networks, and strategies of previous struggles for democratic inclusion to explain how some migrant claims lead to structural reforms, which migrants get included and excluded, and why civil-society actors differentially impact immigrant incorporation.
What does immigrant incorporation mean to immigrants themselves? This chapter examines how individual migrants at the micro-level negotiate macro-level policies and meso-level organizations in the process of becoming permanent members of their societies. I discuss intra-national variations at two different levels: (1) between policies and practices (or between policy intent, interpretation, and outcomes) and (2) between subcategories of migrants. Based on focus group interviews with over twenty immigrant communities in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, this chapter constructs a critical account of how state policies and mediating institutions shape choices for immigrant political empowerment. I explore how immigrants define themselves in relation to their receiving societies and to other immigrants, how they negotiate the formal rules and institutions that govern their legal status, and how their interactions with civil-society organizations shape their understandings of their rights and responsibilities.
Building on Gerschenkron’s (1962) theory of late development, this chapter explores how the timing and context of political economic development among East Asian “late developers” shaped the construction of their citizenship regimes and, later, their immigration policies. I identify the formation of distinct civic legacies that emerged from nationally specific trajectories of citizen-making: local, grassroots movements in Japan; national, rights-based movements in South Korea; and ethnicity-based coalitions in Taiwan. This chapter thus seeks to highlight the macro-level foundations for the development of citizenship and non-citizenship in East Asian democracies that, I argue, are rooted in political economy rather than in cultural traditions. In contrast to dominant approaches that take a dichotomous view of citizenship and non-citizenship or that assume that citizenship is universal and democratic, this book treats citizenship as a contested institution and set of practices negotiated by state and non-state actors to demarcate formal membership in a nation-state that are tied to patterns of mobilization and exclusion in a country’s political economic development.
How do we explain divergent patterns of immigrant incorporation in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan given the similarities between each country’s immigration and citizenship policies, their overlapping immigrant populations largely from neighboring Asian countries, and their common dilemmas of accommodating social diversity while adhering to liberal democratic principles? This book explores how the civic legacies of past struggles for democratic inclusion shape current patterns of immigrant incorporation. Comparing three similarly situated countries in Northeast Asia, I examine three levels of variation: (1) cross-regional differences between immigration and citizenship regimes in East Asia and those in Western industrial democracies; (2) cross-national variations between three countries with descent-based citizenship policies that are conventionally characterized as exclusionary in their policies toward immigrants; and (3) intra-national variations between immigration and citizenship policies and practices among different migrant subcategories.