Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Borderland beyond: Korean migrants and the creation of a modern state boundary between Korea and Russia, 1860-1937
by Park, Alyssa, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2009, 305; 3393599
Abstract (Summary)

“Borderland Beyond” analyzes the building of a modern state border in East Asia—through state surveillance, geopolitical contests, local maneuvers, and the circulation of an exclusionary Western assertion that national boundaries should demarcate a national people and thereby protect civilized denizens from intractable aliens.

The path toward creating a modern state boundary between Korea and Russia was not a foregone conclusion. After the Russians and Chinese drew the boundary in 1860, the borderland was transformed into a fluid region where disparate peoples, economies, and ideas coexisted. Thousands of Koreans began to migrate to Ussuri—the Russian territory bordering on Korea, Manchuria, and the East Sea—to flee natural disasters and find work. As Koreans emerged as the largest ethnic population in the border region, Korean and Russian officials (later officials of the Soviet Union and Japan) debated who should and should not belong to their respective states. By examining passport systems, entry-exit rules, naturalization laws, and cultural policies designed to define and control Koreans, I show how the international border became the primary site of articulating distinctions in states and state membership.

The study also contends that the boundary was not merely an outcome of state policy, but was produced through Koreans' contests with the state. Though the law was created to control migrants, they continuously maneuvered around it by sidestepping border checkpoints and producing counterfeit passports to alter their identities as Korean or Russian subjects. Meanwhile, Korean nationalist émigrés challenged the assimilation project of the Russian state in their attempts to mold migrants into true “Koreans.” By appropriating the institutions and ideology of the modern state to accomplish their own purposes, local inhabitants reinforced, rather than diminished, the efficacy of the new boundary.

Utilizing Korean- and Russian-language sources collected in Seoul, Vladivostok, and the U.S., the study departs from nation-centered approaches that take for granted the existence of territorial borders, and instead examines how contact among various states, non-state groups, and migrants helped create national boundaries and national identities in the first place.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Armstrong, Charles
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian History, Modern history, International Relations, Russian history
Keywords: Boundary, Korea, Migrants, Russia
Publication Number: 3393599
ISBN: 978-1-109-60474-0
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