Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Timothy Oakes

Second Advisor

Emily Yeh

Third Advisor

Fernando Riosmena

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Bair

Fifth Advisor

Yeong-hyun Kim


This dissertation examines how immigration circuits linking China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture with South Korea have altered social practice in immigrant-sending communities. I argue that South Korea’s gender ideologies have become a proxy for sovereign power in the Yanbian area, which otherwise and more typically is enacted through direct territorial control. This sovereign power, while not negating nor fully undermining the Chinese identity of Yanbian’s ethnic Korean residents, acts by reshaping the dreams, desires, and life expectations of women especially. As migration patterns between China and South Korea have stabilized over the last 20 years, rural Korean communities in northeastern China have experienced a continual population decline. In particular, women of reproductive age have left in search of both marriage and work opportunities in South Korea. Here I set out to query three aspects of this migration flow: how intra-ethnic marriage patterns have changed as a result, how the social status of women has been affected, and what new presences have been introduced into migrant-sending communities via migration networks. I demonstrate how Korean Chinese communities have transformed to accept South Korean social norms, in particular normative gender behavior, and how Yanbian is increasingly absorbed into a transnational and deterritorialized social formation that centers on South Korea. But this incorporation into South Korean society is partial at best. While Korean Chinese femininity and masculinity have both been redefined to better accommodate South Korea socio-economic demands, women have found new and seemingly fulfilling subjectivities in the South Korean social order, performing new and exciting cosmopolitan gender and ethnic identities through undertaking paid and unpaid domestic reproductive labor linked to the global city of Seoul. Conversely, Korean Chinese men have been left with few opportunities to enact a fulfilling masculinity, leaving them in a marginalized and unstable position in households and in their communities. Yet I simultaneously emphasize that these changes are neither universal nor permanent, rather capturing one moment in an ongoing conversation between the Chinese central government, the South Koreans, and the Korean Chinese.


Author also known as Amelia Schubert.