Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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South Korean – Kuk kwong | Kuk t’o

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Border, Korean (South)


kuk kwong

국토 (國土)

kuk t’o

Relates to border

Kuk kwong’ refers to ‘border’ and ‘kuk t’o’ to ‘land of the country.’ It is often said that ‘kuk t’o’ must be protected, and the ‘kuk kwong’ are patrolled. When South Koreans think of ‘Hanguk’ – the name they use for the South (while ‘Chosun’ is used for the North), they think of the bordered state.

It is said that the border is being protected in the context of territorial disputes – a situation in which the political manipulation by both the Korean Left and Right is extensive. For instance, in the Tokdo/Takeshima islands dispute, it is common to say, “Tokdo u ri ttang” (Tokdo islands is our land).

Concern about migration across borders is not as sharp as in some other societies. Migrant in South Korea do not have legal rights and cannot threaten to take the jobs of locals. Migrants tend to do dangerous or dirty jobs, are unskilled labour and are outside state protection and trade unions. Moreover, it is difficult to become a naturalised Korean citizen, because the idea of the ‘blood tie’ is central in South Korean society. Inter-marriage, however, is common – and often involves marriage with women from Southeast Asia. In thinking about immigration, South Koreans find comfort in the thought that a ‘drop of ink will not spoil the pure river of the Han’ (that is, the blood of Koreans). This statement does indicate a concern about racial homogeneity, but also a lack of acute anxiety. However, recently both the Left and Right politicians have been keen to educate the people to be racially tolerant.




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