Hannes B. Mosler and Luicy Pedroza. 2017.
"Citizenship and Migration in South Korea: In the forefront of democracies?," in: Kim, Youngmi (ed.) Korea's quest for economic democratization - Globalization, Polarization and Contention. Palgrave MacMillan, 209-232.
News vom 06.11.2017
As other Asian democracies, Korea has been characterized by many migration experts as a state with an ethno-nationalist understanding of citizenship and restrictive migration policies. In this paper we illustrate how far democratization has pushed migration and citizenship policy, both fields of policy reputably anchored in resilient traditions, into formulations that open civic spaces. We devote special attention to a 2005 reform that enfranchised all foreign residents, which places Korea in the vanguard of a best practice of political integration across democracies. We analyze this reform within the general profile of migration and integration policy and also in light of the institutional context in Korea. The reform ended up in a very technical enfranchisement of a quite limited group of resident migrants. However, we show that the formulation of the new law – the process by which it was agreed it would have specific form and scope it did - demonstrates the power that political framing can have for the final shape, form and significance of political reforms. Considering a range of relevant factors that configured the start and development of the reform process, from Court rulings to the renovation of political cohorts within parties, we analyze the process that preceded the final pass of this reform in 2005 through the lens of discursive institutionalism. Our analysis reveals that such process empowered civil society actors and migrant organizations through a framing of universal “human rights” and democratization, instead of a restrictive frame based on reciprocity which was the original one and had been preferred by political elites. While it is obvious that this reform has not meant a substantial departure from ethno-nationalism or from the hard conditions for the full political integration of migrants and their path to citizenship in Korea, this case of enfranchisement powered from below has the potential to build up into a much more significant change in the wider policy scenario of migration and citizenship in Korea.