Universiteit Leiden

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Education, desire and South Koreans in contemporary China

In her dissertation, Xiao Ma takes education as a lens to reveal the dynamic relations of three groups of South Koreans – parents, students, and educational agencies – to nation-states of both the origin and arrival. Her study shows the temporality and ambivalence of population movements between two East Asian countries, and its association with broader issues of privilege, separation, ethnicity, class in the Chinese and Korean contexts. PhD defence on 26 September.

The people in between

She conducted research on the topic of South Koreans in China, focusing on their commonly shared and different individual realities about education. By examining their ‘greed’, expectation, anxiety, and dread regarding education Ma sheds light on the everyday experiences of these people; those who are defined as sojourners from South Korea and foreigners in China.

‘(…) the national desire in China for internationalising education and in Korea for incorporating overseas nationals constitute an integral part of the individual aspiration and anxiety about education.’

Desire on education

Her dissertation focuses on two aspects, school choice and university entrance, and will discuss how individual desire for education is motivated: How does this reflect China’s national ambition of pursuing educational internationalization? And how is Korea’s compulsion to include oversea nationals into its globalization rhetoric revealed?

Privileges and constraints for Korean children

Both countries grant political privileges to the children of overseas Korean nationals in their educational trajectories. ‘As a result, individuals are empowered to creatively comply with, tactically appropriate, or, simply discard educational arrangements by the states’, Ma says. ‘Paradoxically, they simultaneously encounter regulatory, socio-economic, and geographical constraints as they reside in China and make plans for further migration.’

Xiao Ma will defend her PhD at Leiden University on 26 September. She carried out her research over recent years as a PhD candidate at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies.

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