Solidarity and Mobility in Beijing’s Koreatown

Cost of BelongingIn a new book review for JCA, Erik Mobrand looks at The Cost of Belonging. An Ethnography on Solidarity and Mobility in Beijing’s Koreatown by Sharon J. Yoon.

This book is an ethnographic study the Beijing suburb of Wangjing, where “South Korean expatriates have rubbed shoulders with China-born Koreans or Korean Chinese…”. Author Yoon “tells the stories” of the people she met when living and working in the district. Mobrand says that the “book offers an intriguing window onto a corner of the world where individuals are riven by angst over collective identities.”

Mobrand points out that:

Korean Chinese often struggle to get along with South Korean colleagues, employers and associates. They are divided by class and the shifting boundaries of Korean identity. At moments, they find solidarity in their Korean-ness but at many points national identity divides Korean Chinese from South Koreans.

Mobrand finds this a book that “the non-specialist will find fresh and interesting” as it details the personal stories and the relationships between Korean Chinese and South Koreans. He concludes that “ethnographic work such as this book makes the complex interplay of identity and class understandable to readers new to the context.” At the same time, he feels that specialists will find the “engagement with existing work is limited and indirect.”

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