Return Migrants as Skilled Labor: The Case of Transnational Korean New Zealander Returnees

Philippines Conference Room
Encina Hall, Third Floor, Central, C330
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Transferring knowledge and skills through skilled labor has become a critical topic in contemporary migration studies. Countries that are traditionally non-immigrant destinations often turn to their diaspora communities to increase the chances of return flows and knowledge transfer. It has been almost twenty years since South Korea enacted the ‘Overseas Korean Act’ in 1999, which attracted a large number of overseas Koreans back to its shore. Yet there has been very little discussion over the policy implications and what particular ‘skills’ or contributions the returnees have brought to Korean society.

In this seminar, Jane Yeonjae Lee describes some of the research findings from her forthcoming book Quest for home: Transnational return migration of 1.5 generation Korean New Zealanders (Lexington Press, 2018). This book project, which has been based on a life-history and transnational ethnographic research with 49 Korean return migrants, partly investigates the implications for global knowledge transfer through skilled mobilities. Lee will discuss a number of different pathways of returnees’ particular influences on Korean society, and how their certain knowledge and skills can be transferred, hindered, or mutated.

yeonjae lee
Jane Yeonjae Lee is an interdisciplinary qualitative researcher and her research revolves around transnationalism, migrant communities, mobilities, health, and urban environmental politics. In particular, she is interested in understanding the migratory experiences of highly skilled immigrants and how their mobile lives connect and shape the places of migration they move through. Her work has been featured in academic journals such as Health and Place; New Zealand Geographer; and Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. She has also contributed to key texts in the field of geography including Elgar Handbook on Medical Tourism and Patient Mobility; Researching the Lifecourse: Critical reflections from the social sciences; and Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Lee holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Auckland. Dr. Lee is currently a visiting scholar at Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University.