Global women at risk: Psychological landscape of young South Korean women studying and working in London

Cho, Chang-Eun. 2020. Global women at risk: Psychological landscape of young South Korean women studying and working in London. Other thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis will argue that the strategic reconstruction of intimacy in the private sphere leaves young female South Korean educational migrants participating in the global meritocracy in ever increasing numbers emotionally and psychologically vulnerable. Using in-depth interviews and mobile ethnography, this dissertation contemplates the everyday life experiences and psychological landscape of 19 young female South Korean educational migrants in London to understand their motivations for migration and the outcomes. Although the women in this study come from different backgrounds, they had all migrated to London in order to gain economic, social, and cultural resources, that is, flexible citizenships, to ensure their upward mobility in the global meritocracy. They went believing opportunities were accorded based on individual capacity, but even in the newly reconstructed spaces of globalised universities and transnational companies, they found the cosmopolitan structure to be biased. As a result, many women in my study felt isolated, enduring varying degrees of loneliness and depression that they couldn’t adjust during their migration. These negative feelings from isolation to depression that they experienced are entangled with this flawed structure and demonstrate that the meritocracy is unequal in terms of gender, class, cultural background/ethnicity/race, and nationality. To counterbalance the inequality and achieve the initial goal of educational migration, that is, legal, social, and cultural flexible citizenships, they rationalised and instrumentalised intimacy and emotion in romantic relationships, friendships and social relationships, and familial relationships. However, these contractual relationships deprived them of the important bonds that build on trust, loyalty, reciprocity, and commitment, resulting in a lack of emotional support and inner energy and thus a disorganisation of their private sphere. As such, this study challenges previous women migration studies that claim participation in the global meritocracy emancipates and empowers women instead finding it takes a toll on women, causing disorganisation of the private sphere and consequently emotional vulnerability.

Item Type:

Thesis (Other)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

MPhil thesis


Young South Korean women, educational migration, global meritocracy, cosmopolitanism, reconstruction of intimacy, instrumentalisation of emotion, disorganisation of the private sphere

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


29 February 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Apr 2020 15:09

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:15


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