Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Tim Oakes

Second Advisor

Emily Yeh

Third Advisor

Fernando Riosmena


After China and South Korea established diplomatic ties in 1992, over 400,000 ethnic Korean Chinese migrated to South Korea for work or marriage. But despite their common Korean ancestry, both populations have changed in sixty years of separation. Contested definitions of Korean identity resulted. This thesis explores the complex situation of the Korean Chinese within China, their place in South Korean immigration policy, and their eventual reorientation away from South Korea. The problems experienced by migrant and host populations grew from a simplistic notion of ethnicity as shared racial and cultural background. In fact ethnicity is the complex, variable, and manipulable result of long histories experienced in specific places. Understanding ethnic identity requires consideration of territorially-defined group membership and state-sponsored attempts to claim space. Specifically addressing minority groups in China, but relevant to all multinational states, I argue for a contextualized approach to examining changes and conflicts in group identities.