OMNES : The Journal of multicultural society

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OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 10 , No. 2

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.73-101
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jul 2020
Received 30 Apr 2020 Revised 02 May 2020 Accepted 29 Jun 2020

Conceptualizing Hanminjok-Damunhwa Through Cultural Meanings of the Oral Life Histories of Ethnic Korean Return Migrants
Christian Joon Park
Hanyang University ERICA, South Korea

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The ongoing global health crisis has exposed the resilience of exclusive ethnic nationalism. Reflecting on this, this paper explores a new concept, hanminjok-damunhwa, which was suggested by an oral history project designed to critically explore the dominant discourse on the Korean national identity in South Korea by collecting oral life histories of ethnic Korean return migrants from public memory perspectives. It may seem oxymoronic to combine the words hanminjok (Korean ethnic nation) and damunhwa (multiculture), but these terms can be understood in many ways. In the sense of the publicness of memory, the oral history project aims to provide diverse and alternative memories of the Korean ethnicity/nation against a dogmatic and exclusive public memory in which ordinary South Koreans interact, deliberate, and share; this public memory of the Korean nation serves as a template to which a public finds itself, constitutes itself, and deliberates its own existence. In an endeavor to conceptualize hanminjok-damunhwa, this paper examines the changes in the hanminjok discourse as public memories regarding the entanglement between diaspora and transnationalism and the cultural meanings in the oral life histories of Korean seniors who participated in 12 oral life history workshops from October 2012 to August 2014.

Keywords: diaspora, transnationalism, multiculturalism, public memory, oral life history, ethnic Koreans


This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A5B6914089).

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Biographical Note

Christian Joon Park received his M.A. in Korean Studies from Hanguk University of Foreign Studies and his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Academy of Korean Studies. His research interests include migration, multiculturalism, transnationalism, Korean diaspora, tourism, digital anthropology, and oral history. Some of his works have been published in Studies of Koreans Abroad, the Korean Journal of Oral History, and the Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Hanyang University ERICA. E-mail: