“Escape from Hell-Joseon”: A Study of Korean Long-term Travelers in India

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Lee, Minyoung
Issue Date
Department of Anthropology, Seoul National University
Korean Anthropology Review, Vol.3, pp. 45-78
This article was originally published in 2016 in 『비교문화연구』 [Cross-cultural studies]

22(2): 291-328; Translated into English by Yeonji Ghim.

* This article is based on the author’s M.A. thesis by significantly modifying chapters 1, 3,

5, and adding new discussions. The author would like to express sincere gratitude to the

three examiners who provided instructive comments for this article.
The objectives of this study were: 1) to understand present day long-term travels of Korean youth by connecting these to a “Hell- Joseon” discourse; 2) to examine the Korean phenomenon of tal-Joseon (escape from Korea), a practice that is difficult to explain through concepts related to tourism or immigration; 3) to identify the life changes travelers experience after tal-Joseon travel with a focus on their increased mobility. The results of this research are the following. First, people, mostly youths, who are frustrated by Korea’s social structure and culture are traveling abroad for extended periods to get away from Korea. Second, the migration routes tal-Joseon travelers take are different depending on the traveler’s social class. Lower-middle class youth travelers, for example, follow a repetitive pattern of physical labor in developed nations and long-term rest in developing nations. Third, the main goal sought by long-term travelers in India, one of most popular destinations for long-term rest, is “detoxing from Hell-Joseon” through rest, healing, and a search for the self. Fourth, when long-term travelers finish their trips, the meaning of “home” changes for them; an increased mobility is observed in their lives. The tal-Joseon travel phenomenon is related to an increasing global mobility, a trend of blurring boundaries between tourism and migration, and the structural problems in Korea where young people are increasingly excluded from society including the labor market. This study contributes to reflective research on those who choose to run away from Korean society and contributes to a new theory of global mobility.
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College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학)Dept. of Anthropology (인류학과)Korean Anthropology ReviewKorean Anthropology Review Vol.3 (2019)
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