Sohoon Yi PhD

I am a sociologist interested in gender, race, migration, and labour. I have researched marriage migration, migration for care and domestic work, and informal work. I am pursuing new research projects on new forms of racialization from Asian Studies perspectives, paying special attention to Muslim migrants and Islamophobia, and colourless racialization and implicit racism in South Korea.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Global Korean Studies at DIS/GSIS, Korea University. Previously, I undertook postdoctoral fellowships and employment at the University of Sydney, the University of Toronto, Rice University and Kyungpook National University. I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Sydney.

Areas of my research interests are gender and race, women and migration, informal labour, transnational feminism, intimacy, socio-legal studies, ethnography, globalisation, and the politics of the informal economy.

You can contact me by email:


Race and Gender: Islamophobia and Muslim Migrants

This project examines South Korea’s racialization process by considering its unique position as a non-white and high-income country through the lens of gender. Its history of colonization by the Japanese Empire and limited exposure to multi-racial population in the early to mid-20th century stand juxtaposed to its sudden economic growth during the process of globalization. Its increasing global outreach and the inflow of migrants mean racialized minorities and “others” are part of contemporary South Korean society. At the same time, Koreans abroad experience racialization, as the recent shootings in Atlanta painfully illustrate. South Koreans thus have a convoluted experience of racialization.
Specifically, my current research site is the construction site for the Mosque that Muslim students in my university are trying to build, and various protests that their Korean neighbours have put up in protest. I pay attention to the intertwining processes of racialization and racism against Muslims by another racialized people (i.e. Koreans).

You can find out more about my research below:

Yuk, Joowon and Yi, Sohoon (2022) 대구 북구 이슬람사원 갈등을 통해 본 인종주의의 위장술 [Racism in Disguise: Islamophobia and Daegu Daruleeman Islamic Mosque]. Asia Review. 12(1):33-65 [in Korean].

My students and I have been undertaking various participatory action education projects, including research groups, public seminars, internship activities, kids camps, cultural exchange, halal food and dietary diversity promotion, and art exhibits. You can check them out on this website.

Systemization of Commodified Marriage: State, International Marriage Brokers, and Consumer Husbands

In 2014, the Korean Institute of Criminology, the public research institute of criminology, published a report on the “international marriage scams” mainly using the database of complaints submitted to the Korean Consumer Agency by mostly men who purchased international marriage brokerage services. This report reflected an emergence of government discourse around the “victimhood” of male citizens that married through international marriage brokers. This discourse signalled a shift away from the decade prior that saw marriage migrant women as helpless victims and Korean men as potential abusers; now, it viewed marriage migrants as potential scammers and Korean men victims. However, the government support system for such “victims” is based on men’s position as consumers, and thus the discourse implicitly and explicitly reinforces commercial international marriage brokerage. Through a Freedom of Information request, I managed to secure the data of complaints submitted to the Korean Consumer Agency. This project analyzes the data to investigate: the state’s role in systemising the victimhood discourse; commodification and racialization of marriage migrants; and control and evaluation of women’s sexuality and their bodies.

You can find out more about my research below:

Yi, Sohoon (2021) Penalizing ‘runaway’ migrant wives: commercial cross-border marriages and home space as confinement. Citizenship Studies.

Yi, Sohoon (2021). 국가와 ‘국제결혼 소비자 피해담론’의 제도화 작업[“Victimized” Consumer Discourse in International Matchmaking Service and the State’s Systemizing Work]. Journal of Korean Women’s Studies [한국여성학]. 37(2):129-166 [in Korean].

Time, Border, and Family: Micromanaging Mobility in South Korea

Time, Border and Family focuses on the impact of the state’s immigration control practices on the bodies and kinship practices of migrant women. In doing so, it extends the discussion on the commodification of personal lives by global financial capitalism and the labour of migrant women in the intimate sphere.  This project examines the experience of Korean-Chinese and Vietnamese women. They come to South Korea on a temporary legal status mediated by their marital or ethno-kinship relationship with citizens. I call such legal status “temporary ethno-kinship visas,” introducing co-ethnic and kinship migration into the critique of migration management and control. The grafting of temporariness onto ethno-kinship migration programs is a critical site of investigation given the central role of family relations in shaping women’s labour. This project argues that extending the time on their ethno-kinship visas requires migrants to prove to the immigration administration their connections to South Korean families, and the temporal duration of the visa are conduits of dialectic relationships between migrants, their families and immigration authorities.

You can find out more about my research below:

Yi, Sohoon.(2022). Open, Sesame: Korean Chinese Kinship Relation and Codes to Reclaim Time in South Korea. In Minjeong Kim & Hyeyoung Woo (eds.) Redefining Multicultural Families in South Korea: Reflections and Future Directions. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ.

Yi, Sohoon.(2021). Suspicious Motherhood: Maternal Labor and Marriage Migration in South Korea. Social Politics 28(1):71-93.

Construction of ‘Global experience’: Government Support for Youth Overseas Internship

This project focuses on the temporary out-migration of South Korean youths from working-class households. Young South Koreans aspire to “global experience” to achieve class mobility through their transnational mobility. I examine affective dimensions in the imaginations and valorisation of “the global” by the millennial generation in Asia who came of age under the auspices of neoliberal globalisation. This research debunks the understanding of migration as a unified national phenomenon by focusing on the mobility of marginalised youths. In doing so, I contribute to the limited scholarship on the analysis of “the global” as a form of capital and the role of affect in shaping global experiences. I focus on the role of gender and the affective dimension of labour. 

You can find out more about my research below:

Underhill, Elsa, Sherry Huang, Sohoon Yi and Malcolm Rimmer (2019) Using Social Media to Improve Temporary Migrant Workers’ Access to Information about their Employment Rights. Journal of Australian Political Economy, 20(84): 147-174

Underhill, Elsa, Sherry Huang, Sohoon Lee and Malcolm Rimmer. (2018) Information Seeking Behaviours of Temporary Visa Workers in Victoria. Deakin University: Melbourne.

Cheng, Kuo-Sheng, Tina Davis, Sohoon Lee, Sora Lee, Yao-Tai Li (in alphabetical order) (2016) Vulnerabilities of Working Holiday Makers and Policy Recommendations. Submission to Senate Inquiry on the Impact of Australia’s Temporary Work Visa Programs on the Australian Labour Market and on the Temporary Work Visa Holders.Parliament of Australia.

Gendered migration, development and “agency”

This project explored the gendered meaning of “agency” by examining global governance discourse on migration and development from the perspectives of migrant women. The project considered two types of gendered migration: marriage migration and migration for domestic and care work. 

You can find out more about my research below:

Lee, Sohoon and Nicola Piper. (2017) Migrant Domestic Workers as ‘Agents’ of Development in Asia: An Institutional Analysis of Temporality.European Journal of East Asian Studies 16 (2): 220-247

Piper, Nicola and Lee, Sohoon.(2016) Marriage Migration, Migrant Precarity, and Social Reproduction in Asia: an Overview. Critical Asian Studies 48 (4): 473-493