EAST ASIA'S ASTRONAUT AND GEESE FAMILIES: Hong Kong and South Korean Cosmopolitanisms

Nancy Abelmann, Nicole Newendorp, Sangsook Lee-Chung

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In this article, the authors compare two prominent examples of the East Asian middle-class transnational split family (TSF) form of international migration in which typically the mother accompanies children abroad while the father stays home to economically support the family: the "astronaut families" (taikong) in Hong Kong in the 1990s, and the "geese families" (kirǒgi kajok) in South Korea in the 2000s. Many scholars have located the origin of this migration form in shared East Asian cultural values of familism; moreover, what appears to unite these East Asian TSFs is their shared instrumentalism. The authors argue, however, that the construct of cosmopolitanism-in which citizens share a deep-seated interest in membership in the global community of developed, liberal nations-allows for the appreciation of the distinctive characteristics of TSF migration in Hong Kong and South Korea. The authors analyze Hong Kong and South Korea's respective popular media representations of the rise and wane of the TSF migration pattern in order to elaborate on their particular cosmopolitanisms. During the rise period, Hong Kong's migration was a strategy to secure the region's foundational cosmopolitan identity, while South Korea's was motivated by the search for a newfound cosmopolitanism. In the wane period, the authors suggest that Hong Kong and South Korean cosmopolitanisms are converging. First, in both locations people have begun to question how effective sojourn abroad is for either acquiring or securing cosmopolitanism. Second, in both areas people have begun to recognize the possibility of living cosmopolitan lives at home.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-286
Number of pages28
JournalCritical Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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