South Korea may have transformed itself from a refugee-producing country into a refugee-receiving country since 1992, but the application procedures on granting refugee status and the appeal process are still arbitrary and problematic for applicants. Many studies on transnational political communities have elaborated on the arduous experiences of asylum seekers in various countries, but few have explored in detail the actual situations which asylum seekers face in host countries in Asia. This article examines the struggles and survival strategies of a group of Burmese as a transnational political community in South Korea whose lives are 'on probation' due largely to the arbitrary categorizations of their statuses as 'migrants' and 'refugees.' This paper provides a better understanding of how they devise various strategies to survive as migrant workers, and defend their political beliefs and human rights as refugees. More significantly, I argue that the acquisition of refugee status can be a process that not only requires a community to function in a transnational public sphere, but is also a perilous journey wherein migrant workers-refugees experience a 'life on probation' and ambiguities as they attempt to have a sustainable life.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development