Redefining the Life Choice of Filipino Marriage Migrant Women in South Korea


The growing number of incoming marriage migrants in South Korea has raised concern over the social inclusion of the population and the discourse of multiculturalism has then become a heated topic since the beginning of the 2000s. In this setting, the main concern of the study is to find out how the current social setting affects the choices of marriage migrants. The social setting encompasses not only ephemeral events such as discriminatory episodes or the arrival in a new country, but also social construction of ideas formed through social structures and migrant’s experience of the society as a whole. Numerous studies have been done in regard to the social structures including systemic discrimination and struggles of migrants. This study, however, intends to leave the bipolar relation between the structure and the agent. Instead, it looks into the embedded social experiences in choices which migrants make. In so doing, I analyse the narratives of two Filipino women who entered South Korea as a marriage migrant. The two women gradually formed different notions of improvement based on their experiences while possessing different social dispositions such as ethnicity, appearance, and language. At first glance, each choice they made in order to make improvement may appear to look irrelevant to their aspirations. However, understanding the conjuncture occurring between choices illuminates the logic and the relevance. The “conjuncture” is the condition that lays frame for social structures that are intertwined with social actions. People make choices based on their current condition, in which perceptions were influenced by perceived social experiences, and their future aspirations. It means, we undergo points of conjuncture in life, where past social experience, current social circumstance, and future prospect all interplay with one another while the outcome of the choice remains unknown. Therefore, in order to study the meaning of a better life of migrants and how the social environment constructs the meaning, it is necessary to look at conjuncture as a context of their life choices, instead of looking at linear relations of existing social structure and its effects on the quality of life.
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Food, globalisation, and cultural capital


Food is not only the product of context, but it can also transform into the context itself. Culturally and ecologically food carries meanings and symbolism (Fischler, 1988; Mintz & Bois, 2002). For instance, eating sushi at a sushi bar or at home can deliver the sense of Japan through the shape of the food, the way it was cooked, and the way people eat. In this respect, sushi is closely related to the culture of Japan, not just as a mere food made of raw fish and rice. In this paper, I will explore the surroundings and the understanding of one Korean dish called kimchi, and look into its relations to globalisation and influence through the concept of “cultural capital”. Cultural capital, according to Bourdieu, is the form of capital which determines one’s social position through the accumulation of it. The growing global recognition of kimchi can be seen as growing cultural capital in the globalising world in terms of influence. In fact, South Korea’s effort to promote its cultures abroad began with the influence of American cultures. As a defensive measure, it strove to gain more recognition through its cultural objects in other cultures, with the aim of transforming the nation from the “influenced” to the “influencing”. Through commodification and commercialisation of cultures, the nation was able to export its diverse forms of popular cultures to other countries. With the moderate success of popular culture industries, more investment has been put into promoting Korean food. As the recognition of Korean food grew, there have been some visible changes in the social ecology it resides, including its relations with people and the environment. First, the names of Korean dish does not need to be translated into English. As more and more people learn the names of Korean dish, the need to explain them in different means of reference has been reduced. Second, kimchi, one of the most smelly food, is being accepted in neutral environments such as international flights. These changes, to some extent, imply the influence of Korean food in the global arena. The main sources of the research are journals, books, and news articles. However, my personal encounter with the changes is also included.
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