Writing Zuhause: Identity Construction of the Korean-German Woman

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2010

Publication Source

Asian Women





Inclusive pages


Place of Publication

Seoul, Korea

Peer Reviewed



Asian migrant experiences written in German are still somewhat rare, but the first generation of Korean migrants to Germany, who took up jobs as nurses and miners in the 1960s and 1970s with little to no knowledge of German, have moved beyond their initial loss for words and begun to record their memories of their first years in Germany. The collection of essays in Zuhause (2006), for instance, edited by Heike Berner and Sun-Ju Choi, serves as testimony to the guestworker experience in general and also more specifically to the Korean-German encounter. Told from the Korean nurses’ perspective, this work offers an eye-opening view of a group of women long incapable of and also simply unaccustomed to voicing their opinions and demanding their own rights. They address both the rewards and the difficulties of their years in Germany and show that, although they occasionally felt exoticized by the media, they also gained a new voice in the German language that they might not have had in their own native Korean. This article discusses how the autobiographical narratives demonstrate that various struggles with language, society, and identity eventually triggered a process of re-invention that resulted in the acceptance of life in Germany and a position “in-between” two cultures. Indeed, that the Korean women even spoke up to defend their right to stay in Germany after their contracts had ended shows that they had gained a new attitude, for such resistance contradicts the notions of harmonious and obedient behavior that Korean society expected not only of women but of citizens in general. In their struggle for acceptance in Germany, these Korean women were even able to combat social discrimination, thus creating the possibility of a German-Korean hybrid identity for later generations.


German Linguistics | German Literature | Linguistic Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology

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