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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Anthropology

Street-level bureaucracy and depoliticized North Korean subjectivity in the service provision of Hana Center

Seo Yeon Park - first published online 25 February 2016 - DOI:10.1080/14631369.2016.1151231. ASIAN ETHNICITY: Special Issue : North Koreans in South Korea


This paper explores how institutional service provision for North Koreans in South Korea contributes to formulating specific kinds of North Korean subjectivity. North Korean matters are still controversial and riddled with various political issues, including the Cold War, ethnic homogeneity, and neoliberal changes. There has been significant critique on over-competition, resource misuse, and inadequate services for this population in South Korea to date. Semi-government resettlement agencies called Hana Centers have attempted to standardize and individualize service provision to North Koreans since 2009 reflecting neoliberal welfare trend in South Korea. In the space where the stated policy and actual practices create gap in-between, the values of practicality and neutrality take precedence in operating the Hana Centers. Bureaucratic practices of Hana Centers on the ground reveal contradictory and divergent operations, featuring street-level bureaucracy and localized governmentality. This paper specifically attends to the depoliticizing and decontextualizing effects that the Hana Centers exert in configuring North Korean subjectivity, with detailed descriptions of bureaucratic operations.
The full article (and a PDF copy) can be found at this URL: