Aspirations to Live: the Politics of Transnational Welfare Citizenship among Older Sakhalin Koreans

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Monday, February 27th, 2017

Monday, February 27, 20172:00PM - 4:00PM108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Since 1990, when the Soviet Union and South Korea established diplomatic ties, over 4,000 Koreans from Sakhalin Island (Russia) have “returned” to their so-called ethnic homeland, now in South Korea. This return migration program has been supported by the Japanese and South Korean governments, named a humanitarian aid, with older Sakhalin Koreans being granted citizenship in South Korea. Based on ethnographic fieldwork on Sakhalin in South Korea (2010-2011, 2016), I present everyday experiences of citizenship among older Sakhalin Koreans in a transnational setting. This return project, offering a range of material and social assistance, has provoked new aspirations to live; at the same time it entails a new sense of unfairness, moral discourses around dependency, contested claim-making practice, and reflections of self through Others. These experiences show the ways older Sakhalin Koreans negotiate moral and political personhood as they reconfigure historically shaped relations to key nation-states including Japan, Russia, and South Korea. Situating the practices and imaginaries of citizenship of older Sakhalin Koreans within the shifting geopolitics of Northeast Asia, this study offers an analysis and understanding of subjectivities in the times of post-colonial and post-cold war transformations.

Sungsook Lim completed her Master’s degree in Anthropology at Hanyang University in Korea in 2004, and continued to study anthropology in the Ph.D. program at the University of British Columbia. Her PhD research project considered return mobility among older Sakhalin Koreans, specially focusing on their kinship and citizenship practices. Sungsook completed her PhD degree in 2016, and is currently a post-doctoral fellow of the Korea Foundation.


Rachel Ostep


Sungsook Lim
Post-doctoral fellow, Korea Foundation

Jesook Song
Interim Director, Centre for the Study of Korea

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of Korea


Asian Institute


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