CANCELED: Liberal International Norms and Restrictive Domestic Institutions: Politics of Refugee Reception in South Korea

Event time: 
Wednesday, October 26, 2022 - 12:00pm
Rosenkranz Hall (RKZ), 202 See map
115 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

The right to asylum is a hotly contested issue in the politics of rich democracies of the Global North, most of which – despite implementing various restrictive measures of deterrence – accept a significant number of asylum-seekers. A country that is part of the Global North that lies outside this pattern is South Korea, a rich Asian democracy whose compliance with international treaties on refugee protection and enactment of a domestic refugee law are at odds with the exceptionally low number of asylum-seekers it accepts. I explore this puzzling discrepancy by examining Korea’s bureaucratic institutions that review asylum claims and conduct refugee status determination (RSD). I argue that the discrepancy is due in part to the preexisting and prevailing culture, practices, and norms of RSD institutions that conflict with the liberal international norms of refugee protection initially adopted by policymakers. By highlighting the often-neglected role of bureaucratic institutions in RSD outcomes, I provide an alternative account to “Asian exceptionalism,” which has traditionally explained East Asia’s restrictive stance towards refugee protection.
Angela Yoonjeong McClean is a Sociologist whose research interests include international and forced migration, law and society, transnational and global sociology, social movements, and Asian/Asian-American studies.
In her first book project, “Politics of Refugee Reception in South Korea: Liberal Supranational Norms and Restrictive Domestic Institutions,” she explores state and societal responses to asylum claims and refugee inflows in South Korea. South Korea is a rich Asian democracy that is part of the “Global North” but hosts an exceptionally low number of refugees in its territory relative to its counterparts with comparable economic, political, and social capacities. Angela approaches the question of why South Korea has remained an outlier in the Global North vis-à-vis refugee reception from an institutional perspective, showing that the Korean bureaucratic and judicial agencies adjudicating asylum claims have made it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers to win their cases. These institutions are insulated by restrictive domestic norms that are highly disjointed from the liberal supranational norms that pervade Korea’s official policy rhetoric.
Angela received her BA in East Asian Studies and American Studies at Wellesley College, MA in Regional Studies – East Asia from Harvard University, and PhD in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego. Prior to her post at Yale, she was a Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan.