chapter  3
Regional mobility from East Asia to Southeast Asia: The case of education and retirement migration
ByHYUNG JUN KIM AND LENG LENG THANG
Pages 23

Intra-Asia movements are predicted to increase in significance (Hugo 1996). In terms of the flows between East Asia (China, South Korea and Japan) and Southeast Asia, one dominant flow is obviously the out-migration of labour for higher income and better life for their families left behind. They constitute predominantly the non-skilled labourers from Southeast Asia to East Asia, especially to Japan and South Korea (Douglass 2006). In recent decades, where more varied flows have been observed, besides the movement of the unskilled working population, there are also increasing flows of skilled and semi-skilled forms of migration, such as the presence of Indonesian caregivers in Japan (Ogawa 2010) and elite professionals from Southeast Asia working in East Asian cities (Yeoh and Willis 2005). Douglass, in examining transnational flows in Pacific Asia from the framework of global householding, notes that besides migrating for jobs including domestic workers and caregivers for elders and children, there are also increasing trans-border mobility for the purpose of marriage, where “these days, the so-called ‘mail order brides’ from Asia are more likely to go to Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Japan than to the West (2006, 428)”. In addition, he also identifies movements for education among children and their mothers, and retirement especially by older people from high-income East Asian countries to Southeast Asia. This chapter particularly focuses on the phenomenon of such education and

retirement flows from East Asia to Southeast Asia.1 Douglass (2006) has alerted us to the recent attempts of Korean and Japanese governments to increase the number of foreign students studying in the respective countries motivated by low fertility rates, which have led to a fall in tertiary student enrolment in Korean and Japanese universities. While the launching of new university programmes such as four-year degrees conducted in the English language in these countries offered new options to students from Southeast Asia who have conventionally looked favourably to higher education in America, Australia and the United Kingdom, in this chapter we would like to examine educational migration in the reverse direction of East Asia to Southeast Asia, a phenomenon that has become increasingly visible in the recent decade, especially among middle-class families in South Korea

We contend that these less-discussed forms of migratory flows add new dimen-

sions to human security issues in East Asia. Compared to conventional labour migration, the economic position of transnational retirees and students is more secure in that they usually bring their economic resources from home. Their cultural and social positions, however, are less stable. They are usually in their teens or in their late fifties and above, and it is important to understand how these groups adapt to a foreign environment. In cultural terms, for example, retirees are less equipped with linguistic capacity to acquire basic communicative skills to mix with a new community in their host country. In social terms, teenagers are severed from the most important relationship needed for their transition from adolescence to adulthood – the family. As belonging to age groups for which familiarity may matter more than “challenge”, retirees and teenagers may be exposed to different forms of security problems which conventional transmigrants have not experienced intensively. At the same time, the length and type of their stay in local communities make them different from shorter-term visitors like tourists, and the potential for positive local-host interactions are significant. Hence, they bring new understanding to the role of migration in ASEAN community building. It should be noted that although the discussion of such flows is limited to the

direction of East Asia to Southeast Asia here, it is necessary to recognise that these are by no means a unidirectional flow. Within the region of Southeast Asia and East Asia, too, the velocity and intensity of migratory movements exist in different forms, including a blurring of what defines migration with the daily crossing of borders for work in the borderland regions. Education and retirement migration prevails within these regions, with Koreans and Chinese constituting the biggest student population in Japan, Malaysians and Indonesians as common sights among school children in Singapore, students from Indo-Chinese countries studying in Thailand and Singaporeans retiring in Malaysia. Following Douglass (2006, 2012), we consider the concept of global house-

holding useful in providing a framework to understand such newer forms of transnational flows. By focusing on the trans-border features that are increasingly common in “householding” – a term which is used to underscore the “way in which creating and sustaining a household is a continuous process of social reproduction that covers all life-cycle stages and extends beyond the family” (Douglass 2006, 421), the concept addresses the shortcoming in international migration studies which tends to overlook the family in its analysis of individual migrants. While students and seniors may appear as quite unrelated individuals in migration, our discussion will show that despite migrating to fulfil different objectives and hence resulting in different implications for the families, the movement of one may sometimes trigger mobility in another, resulting in the orchestrated movement of grandparents and grandchildren transnationally. Douglass summarises the typical elements of householding in household life

cycles into the following order of marriage/patterning, bearing, raising and educating children (and adults), the daily maintenance of the households, labour

through in the focusing on the young and the old in the process of global householding, we further hope to offer new insights on how they may implicate one another, although remaining largely as independent flows to the host countries. Furthermore, besides impacting on the migrants and their families, the interactions with local society led by such flows affect the nature of local society and residents as they experience globalisation on their doorstep. Thus, the onset of educational and retirement migration may shed new light on the impact of transnational mobility on local, national and regional community, and at the same time, on human security issues in East Asia. In this chapter, we begin first with the discussion of education migration,

focusing mostly on Korean students as a case of movement from East Asia to Southeast Asia, and including also a brief discussion of Chinese students and their mothers to Singapore relating to the phenomenon of the “study mother”. Following this, retirement migration will be explored with the cases of Japanese and Korean retirees moving to Southeast Asia. In the final section, we discuss such transnational movements in the light of human security issues and the role of ASEAN and the East Asian economy before our concluding remarks.