“Out-of-Factory” Activities in Public Spaces: Filipino Male Migrant Workers in Seoul

Conference: The Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS2022)
Title: “Out-of-Factory” Activities in Public Spaces: Filipino Male Migrant Workers in Seoul
Stream: South-East Asian Studies (including Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos)
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Yeong-Hyun Kim, Ohio University, United States


Much academic attention has been paid to the everyday experiences and practices of female migrant workers in host cities, but comparatively little research has been done on those of male migrants. This paper examines the spatial exclusion and marginalization of young male migrant workers in Seoul, South Korea. The government-run Employment Permit System (EPS) brings in mostly male migrants (over 90 percent), on three-year contracts, to relive labor shortages in declining heavy industries and houses them on-site in factory dormitories to ensure tight control over their lives. Employers, vying for higher EPS quotas, actively participate in spatially confining their migrant employees in the factory lot and not being seen in public space. Through the narratives and experiences of Filipino migrants, the paper demonstrates that the imposed spatial confinement is central to their everyday experiences of living as low-skilled migrant workers in the outer areas of Seoul during the week. However, on weekends, these migrants explore and engage in “out-of-factory” activities and claim public places like churches, markets, beer pubs, and other oft-visited sites Filipino places. The findings of this paper highlight both the spatial confinement effect state control has on the daily lives of temporary migrant workers and how migrants confront the confinement by gathering and claiming their places in the host city.

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