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Title:Heroes, criminals and good migrants: South Korean transnational entrepreneurs and the makings of moral worlds in the Philippines
Author(s):Kim, Dohye
Director of Research:Manalansan, Martin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Manalansan, Martin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Orta, Andrew; Moodie, Ellen; Greenberg, Jessica; Kim, Seung-kyung
Department / Program:Anthropology
Discipline:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Market, Transnational Entrepreneurship, Ethics
Abstract:This dissertation is an ethnography of South Korean transnational entrepreneurship both as action and ethos in a developing country. Based on approximately a 20-month field research of South Korean small-scale entrepreneurs in the Philippines between 2013 and 2016, this study analyzes South Korean entrepreneurs’ (predominantly men’s) everyday narratives on ethics and morality they employ to highlight their goodness in contrast to those they think are “bad” co-ethnic entrepreneurs in the country. By demonstrating how the Philippines, as one of the relatively poor, developing countries, has been constructed as an easily exploitable market, I argue that such ways of building the market intrinsically produced moral suspicion toward South Korean entrepreneurs because sharing such a perception violates the ethical guidelines that South Korean society created for its citizens to follow when abroad. As both South Korean and the Philippine states deepened their respective neoliberal economic reforms, they constructed the Philippines as an easily exploitable “promising” market, and such promotions by both countries led to a remarkable increase in South Korean entrepreneurs in the country with high expectation of business profits. Yet crossing the Philippine border made the entrepreneurs ethically vulnerable because since the military regime of Park Chung-hee there have been ethical guidelines for Koreans to follow while in another country, that is, not to bring shame upon the country through explicitly rude and “uncivilized” attitudes toward foreigners. Thus, although South Koreans’ shared perception of the Philippines opened the market to penetrate, it ironically carried ethical concerns leading to moral suspicion of South Korean entrepreneurs as to whether they were “ugly Koreans” who had exploitative intentions about the Philippines, thus were shameful and undutiful Koreans living outside Korea. To support my argument, this dissertation traces both the formation of South Koreans’ perception of the Philippine market and the ethical guidelines applying to South Koreans abroad back to the South Korea’s developmentalism both as an economic theory and ideology. South Korea’s developmentalism created a view that developing economies were promising “backward” markets and it also engendered the ethical guidelines that South Koreans had to comply with, that is, to represent the country’s sociocultural and moral advancement abroad. After the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, both the South Korean government and the media encouraged transnational entrepreneurship as one of the best options for Koreans to take by specifically highlighting “late-developing” countries in the Southeast Asian region as lucrative markets. Around 2006, supported by the Philippine government’s promotion of retiree and investor migrants from relatively wealthy countries, such a perception of the developing countries drew a massive number of South Korean entrepreneurs to the Philippines. However, grabbing such chances in a “backward” market ironically created South Koreans’ suspicion toward each other as those who were “uncivilized” in how badly they treated the Filipinos. By historicizing South Koreans’ moralizing discourses against South Koreans abroad and analyzing how such moralization persisted inside South Korean communities in the Philippines to criticize co-ethnic entrepreneurs as shameful, undutiful Koreans, I demonstrate the ways in which South Korean entrepreneurs’ transnational monetary pursuit invited moral criticism. Charting how the entrepreneurs struggled to prove their sociocultural and moral advancement under severe moral critiques, I also pay attention to the ways in which they try to claim their legitimacy to remain and do business in the country. In this way, I clarify how their attempts to find economic profits through transnational entrepreneurship inevitably ended up with endeavors to prove their moral standing.
Issue Date:2018-04-16
Type:Text
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/101324
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Dohye Kim
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
2020-09-05
Date Deposited:2018-05


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