Filipino village in Korea

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Susan Borker


Filipino, Village, Korea, Migrant workers, Immigration policy, Racism

Subject Categories

Asian Studies | Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Work, Economy and Organizations


Korea changed from a labor exporting country to a labor importing country during the 1990s. The development of the Korean economy and a labor shortage in the 3D industries (difficult, dirty, and dangerous) have made many foreigners from less developed Asian countries seek employment in Korea as trainees or undocumented workers. This migration transition has considerably influenced the social, cultural, and economic structure of Korea as well as the immigration policies of the Korean government.

This is a case study of Filipino migrant workers, most of whom are low wage factory workers living in a city of suburban Seoul in Korea. These Filipino workers have established their community through a migrant center and a Catholic Church. In-depth interviewing and participant observation are the main research methods for this study.

Filipino Village is the center of their community in the city. Most chapters of this study describe the lives of these people, focusing on several topics--the process of coming to Korea, housing and community, family relations, work and labor problems, racial relations and discrimination, and dreams for the future. Their stories illustrate the difficulties of assimilation and the process of marginalization of foreign workers in a host society. Individual experiences of migrant workers are interpreted in the context of the macrostructure of migration, and their community is discussed as a racial and ethnic minority group. The roles of migrant centers and the Korean government are discussed in the terms of protection and control of migrant workers.

The heart of the problems regarding immigrant workers in Korea, including Filipino workers, can be summarized by two features: their invisibility and their temporary residential status. Korean society keeps immigrant workers invisible and prevents their becoming members of society in many ways. The boundary between Koreans and immigrant workers is clear and deep. The racial and ethnic differentiation between immigrant workers and Koreans as well as the immigrant workers' economic status at the bottom of the job structure and their lack of legitimacy to work in Korea marginalize them and keep them as outsiders in Korean society.


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