Dependency, Multiculturalism and Agency: Marriage Migration in Singapore and South Korea


An understudied dimension of recent cross-border movement in Asia pertains to marriage migration, defined as women from countries in East, Southeast and South Asia migrating to marry men in more economically prosperous places, such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore (Jones 2012). This study compares the marriage migration trends of Singapore and South Korea and specifically queries the impacts of state citizenship and visa legislations, employment policies and multicultural agendas on the lived experiences of marriage migrant women. I draw upon qualitative fieldwork conducted in the summer of 2013, where I addressed two populations of interest, 1) field experts (social workers, government officials and researchers) and 2) marriage migrant women. Throughout my investigation, I mobilize a scalar analytic to illustrate the dynamics between broad scale policies of the state and the lived experiences of marriage migrant women in South Korea and Singapore. I particularly argue that the state scale processes remain detached from the individual migrant women’s realities and I demonstrate this point by looking at various state legislations and policies that influence the women’s integration procedures in the two nations. In my conclusion, I suggest the role of local aid networks as a meso-scalar solution that can bridge the gap of these macro- and micro-scales, in other words, the state and individual scales. Hence, I unveil the vibrant processes of the state, community and individual scales within the multi-national and multi-thematic discourse and practices of marriage migration.



Marriage Migration, Singapore, South Korea, Multiculturalism, Citizenship