Summary and Keywords
East Asian countries have varying levels of ethnic homogeneity. North and South Korea have long been considered among the most ethnically homogeneous nation-states in the world. In South Korea, the number of foreigners who were long-term visitors (over 90 days) or residents accounted for 1.3 percent of the total population in 2006. While no equivalent statistics are available for North Korea, given the data available, it seems safe to assume that the ethnic minority population in that country totals less than 1 percent. The Japanese also view themselves as a racially distinct and homogeneous people, despite the historical presence of foreigners and ethnic minorities. China is composed of a patchwork of ethnicities with around 55 state-recognized minority groups. However, according to the 2005 census, minorities accounted for only 9.4 percent of the overall population or 123 million people. Despite different levels of ethnic homogeneity, China, Korea, and Japan are witnessing a rise in international (and internal) migration over the past three decades. The recent increase of foreign migrant workers and spouses has challenged the dominant perceptions of ethnic homogeneity in Korea and Japan, while further strengthening the bonds of ethnic heterogeneity in China. These changes have not only forced a reshaping of the notions of identity and citizenship, but have also helped fuel the rise of various “reactive” forms of neo-nationalism, such as “state nationalism,” “ethnic nationalism,” and “cultural nationalism,” that attempt to fortify or recuperate ethnic or race-based definitions of national identity.
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