This article discusses the dynamic changes in ethnic relations that have taken place in the Joseonjok (Chaoxianju) community comprising minority Koreans residing in and around Yanbian, an autonomous prefecture in northeastern China, and discusses the implications of those changes for the region. The main focus is on how the tension between China’s fluctuating ethnicity-related politics and this diaspora group’s continual struggle for a collective identity has been managed and internalised. Contrary to existing studies on the Joseonjok, the paper argues that the group has experienced de-ethnicisation, both as a top-down (government policy) and bottom-up (diaspora’s reaction) process, rather than ethnic revival. The puzzling question is how and why de-ethnicisation occurs despite the commonly accepted conditions of ethnonationalism and, more recently, with trans-nationalism, heavily influenced by their Korean motherlands. Based primarily on ethnographical research and using a multiculturalism approach, this paper argues that the recent policy failure in dealing with multiculturality in China, together with the changing geopolitics of the region, has accelerated the process of de-ethnicisation. Joseonjok society’s particular way of resisting political pressures and coping with ethnic tension in fact reflects a diaspora’s common struggle to achieve integration with mainstream society while ensuring recognition of its own distinctive characteristics.
See Brian Barry‘The muddles of multiculturalism’New Left ReviewNo. 8 (March–April 2001) pp. 49–71; Will Kymlicka The Rights of Minority Cultures (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1995); Bhikhu Parekh Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2000); Adrian Favell ‘Applied political philosophy at the Rubicon: Will Kymlicka’s Multicultural Citizenship’ Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Vol. 1 No. 2 (1998) pp. 255–278.
See Outi Luova‘Transnational linkages and development initiatives in ethnic Korean Yanbian, northeast China: “sweet and sour” capital transfers’Pacific AffairsVol. 82 No. 3 (2009) pp. 427–446; Guo Jingfu Wang Jingtao and Wang Jianbin ‘Study on development policies of the special industries in ethnic minority areas of China’ International Journal of Business and Management No. 5 (2010) pp. 201–204.
June Teufel Dreyer‘China’s vulnerability to minority separatism’Asian Affairs An American ReviewNo. 32 (2005) pp. 69–86; Michael Clarke ‘Ethnic separatism in the People’s Republic of China: history causes and contemporary challenges’ European Journal of East Asian Studies Vol. 12 No. 1 (2013) pp. 109–133.
The incident happened in June1996by the time the Joseonjok’s Korean Dream had reached its peak. Six Joseonjok crews who were hired by the South Korean captain of the Peskama-ho fishing ferry were all involved in the murder case; seven South Korean crew members along with other crews of other nationalities were murdered in August 1996.
S.W. Harold‘Ieodo as metaphor? The growing importance of sovereignty disputes in South Korea–China relations and the role of the United States’Asian PerspectiveVol. 36 No. 2 (2012) pp. 287–307; see pp. 288–293.