Asian Women - The Research Institute of Asian Women Journal

Current Issue

OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8 , No. 3

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.64-84
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jul 2017
Received 12 May 2017 Reviewed 16 May 2017 Accepted 10 Jul 2017

Arriving with Machines, Skills, and Transnational Networks : Korean Immigrants’ Involvement in the Garment Industry in Latin America
Jin Suk Bae
Research Professor at the Sogang Institute of American Studies (SIAS) at Sogang University (


This article examines the migration and economic adjustment processes of Korean immigrants, concentrating on their involvement in the garment industry in Korea and Latin American countries. Koreans, who were originally sent as agricultural immigrants to Latin American countries in the 1960s, unexpectedly carved out a niche in the garment industry. This garment-related entrepreneurial opportunity became one of the precipitating factors for the later Korean influx into South America. Simultaneously, access to the U.S. clothing market led Koreans engaged in the garment business in Korea to Central American countries. This article focuses on Korean immigrants in Latin America who arrived already having clothing-related skills and experience in Korea. It examines how these Koreans’ previous occupational experience in Korea influenced both initial immigration decisions and choice of destination and whether and how patterns of economic adjustment differed from those of Koreans who came to Latin America without relevant experience or skills. Korean immigrants with prior clothing-related skills and experiences have contributed to the further development of Korean-owned garment businesses in Latin American countries. In terms of global Korean diasporic formations, the garment business has played a unique role in the growth and expansion of Korean immigrant communities across the Americas.

Keywords: Korean Diaspora, Migration, Latin America, Garment Industry, Economic Adjustment

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Biographical Note

Jin Suk Bae received her Ph.D. at Brown University’s Department of American Studies. She is currently Research Professor at the Sogang Institute of American Studies (SIAS) at Sogang University. Her academic interest lies in researching the regional and global Korean diaspora in general and the onward or multiple migration of South Koreans in particular. Email: (