Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Jennifer F Reynolds


This study explores the affective dimensions and intersecting politics of service operations for North Koreans, focusing on semi-government institutions, Hana Centers in two different regions of South Korea. It probes into how bureaucratic service institutions for North Koreans operate on the ground using affect-laden languages and practices in creating a specific type of clientele subjectivity. This study also points out how the state bureaucracies identifying themselves as “practical” and “neutral” agencies reveal contradictory and fragmented governing which is antithetical to how the state institutions are imagined. There are underlying politics working in the realm of a so-called neutral service agency, such as Cold War memories, imagined homogeneity regarding ethnicity, and neoliberal changes in the welfare area and beyond. Even though these are hidden on public and formal policy and statements, they inevitably emerge in unexpected contexts in forms of mistrust, conflicts and anxiety among the service providers and the recipients. Through ethnographic research, this study highlights flexible, performative and emotional aspects of the relationships between the service providers and the service recipients by attending to affective dimensions. It finds that desirable figures of North Korean clientship are represented differently, depending on distinctive characteristics of the locations as well as different modes of governing.


© 2016, Seo Yeon Park