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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnic Return Migration Policies and Asian American Labor in Japan and Korea


Asian ethnic return migration policies are having an important impact on the lives of Asian Americans. By making it easier for later generation Asian Americans to work and invest in their ancestral homelands, these policies have affected the scale of Asian American migration and their economic, cultural, and social connections to Asia. However, ethnic return migration policies and their effects are not uniform across all Asian American groups. This paper analyzes how Asian Americans are being affected by ethnic return migration policies through comparative examination of the Immigration Control Act in Japan and the Overseas Korean Act in South Korea. The two policies in Japan and South Korea (hereafter Korea) are similar in their initial targeting of ethnic return migrants and in their privileging of skilled workers and investors in the 2000s to increase each country’s competitiveness in the global economy. However, while Korea’s policy has cast a net to include Korean Americans specifically, Japan’s ethnic return migration policy has not been aimed at Japanese Americans in the same way.

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