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Three-Week Re-Education to Koreanness

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Today, international adoptees are welcomed to South Korea by the government, adoption agencies and different associations. These institutions organise educational programmes called 'cultural programmes'. Relatively cheap, these programmes generally include a tour of South Korea, visits to welfare facilities, and classes related to Korean culture: music, language, history, cuisine, martial arts. International adoptees are seen as Koreans of the diaspora, and as such need re-education to discover their true identity. When they return to their adoptive countries, they will be able to represent their birth country accurately and therefore contribute to Korea's successful globalisation. However, what is at stake in these programmes is less political and economical than social. I argue that most of the activities can be viewed as rites of passage and that the entire programme is constructed according to that logic. As a problematic category, international adoptees must be redefined by ritualised actions inside South Korean society. Recent studies considered these ceremonies as mock rituals; however, this article aims to show that these rituals have a valid purpose although they lead not to integration but to separation: defining the diaspora continues to rely on defining what is outside the national territory.

Affiliations: 1: Harvard Korea Institute;, Email:


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