Towards a Political Economy of Migration Industries: Taiwan, South Korea and Japan

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.02 (Tower Two)
Kristin Surak, SOAS, London, England
Recent studies of "migration industries" have examined the key role of border-spanning businesses  – labor recruitment, money-lending, transportation, remittance, documentation, and communication -- for moving people internationally.  However, most work on migration industries to date has viewed the state as an adjunct to the object of inquiry without theorizing it as an active partner in their development.   This paper attempts to more thoroughly flesh out the range of ways in which states can interact with migration industries through an analysis of the Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese cases.  Taiwan evinces a stronger mix of neoliberal marketization, Japan holds to developmental state guidance, and South Korea oscillates between the two. As such, states may harness market competition to devolve sovereign control over labor migration flows to sub-state actors who, driven by the possibility of financial gain, carry out traditional state capacities.  The state thus becomes an invested player in the migration industries channeling low-skilled flows, profiting both by saving resources that might otherwise be drained by migration policy enforcement, and as a fee-collector from licenses of entry into the game.