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Public Lecture by Dr. Yoon Jung Park

September 21, 2009
By: Kelly Hamilton

Dr. Yoon Jung Park will be giving a public lecture entitled "Faces of China in South Africa: "New Chinese Migration to the Southern Tip of Africa, 1970s to the present."

China Week Poster


Different types of migrants (temporary contract laborers, managers, entrepreneurs, and traders) have migrated from both Taiwan and mainland China to various regions of southern Africa since the late 1970s, but in increasing numbers in the past five to ten years. Some of these Chinese migrants have been in Africa now for over two decades, and become permanent residents or even citizens of their African host countries. In South Africa there is also an "indigenous" Chinese South African community with roots going back to the late 1860s. In South Africa alone, it is estimated that there are over 350,000 people of Chinese descent; nearly half of the estimated number of Chinese on the African continent. In addition, there are increasing (albeit much smaller) numbers of migrants from Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia as well as Asians from Western countries. Often, however, all of these different people are seen as one, painted with one brush in a single stroke.

The poor labor record of Taiwanese factories of the 1980s and 1990s is blamed, broadly, on all Chinese. When Chinese South Africans won their case in a Pretoria High Court to be recognized as previously disadvantaged, government officials and black business associations cry foul, because “Chinese don’t even speak English”, again, conflating the newer Chinese immigrants with the second-, third-, and fourth-generation South Africans of Chinese descent. Based on research on newer Chinese immigrant communities, this paper attempts to break down the predominant stereotype that all Chinese in South Africa are the same. The paper describes the various ‘waves’ of Chinese migration and attempts to draw some distinctions between groups based on place origin, language, class, and length of stay in the country. The paper argues that there are many “faces of China” represented here on the southern tip of Africa.


Dr. Yoon Jung Park is currently a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Sociological Studies at the University of Johannesburg and the convener/coordinator of the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) International Research Working Group. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 2006 for a PhD thesis on Chinese South African identities in the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. Her thesis was published by Jacana Media, Pty., under the title: “A Matter of Honour. Being Chinese in South Africa” (September 2008) and co-published in the US by Lexington Books (April 2009).

Her current research interests include Chinese in Africa (and perceptions of Chinese by local communities); migration; race, ethnicity and identity; race, class and power dynamics; and xenophobia. In a previous life, she did work on gender and gender-based violence in the US and South Africa; consulted on community development projects; and worked in arts & culture with the Smithsonian Institution.

In keeping with her inter-disciplinarity, Dr. Park also holds an MA from the FletcherSchool in International Relations with an emphasis on comparative and development politics and Latin America (Tufts University, Boston, MA) and a BA from Pitzer College in Sociology and Women’s Studies (Claremont, CA).

Dr. Park is married and has a 7-year-old daughter. She was born in Seoul, Korea; grew up in Los Angeles, CA; and has lived in Africa (Johannesburg and Nairobi) since 1995. She has also lived, for brief periods, in Cuernavaca, Mexico; Boston, MA; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Washington, DC.

  • Date: Thursday 1 October
  • Time: 19:00
  • Venue: Eden Grove Blue

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© 2009 The Confucius Institute, Rhodes University, South Africa

Last Modified: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 15:03:51 SAST