Integration in Europe and East Asia: Looking at the Bigger Picture

In Germany, the word migration conjures images of overcrowded boats on the Mediterranean seas or of German reception camps for refugees. But what do migration and integration mean in South Korea or Japan? EPRIE participants took a closer look.

Julia Sonntag | March 2018

With stops in Japan and Korea, the sixth year of the Exchange Program for Regional Integration in East Asia and Europe (EPRIE) was dedicated to a comparative view of Europe and Asia in regard to their approaches to migration. Furthermore, conversations with activists, refugees, and other participants were organized to obtain greater awareness of identities and privilege.

Sina Schindler

“You can often learn more from people’s experiences than from numbers and statistics”

Sina Schindler is a Ph.D. candidate in Media and Cultural Studies at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. In her thesis, she explores how a society’s (integration) expectations impact the identities of people with a migrant background. As a German researcher of Korean descent, she is convinced that it is possible to feel part of more than one thing, be it country or culture. Participating in the EPRIE program and visiting NGOs in Busan, Seoul, and Tokyo reaffirmed for her how important it is to include a wide range of perspectives in the academic and public debate on migration and integration. “The experiences I had in South Korea and Japan have shown me that I still see many things through a European lens, and that it is vital to view migration from a transnational perspective.”

Jotaro Kato

“Identities are not determined by governments, but decided by people themselves”

Jotaro Kato campaigns for the rights of Burmese immigrants in Tokyo. In his research, he compares integration approaches in Japan and Europe. His work shows him every day how an uncertain legal status and the feeling of being rejected by authorities and neighbors keep migrants in limbo and without a sense of belonging for years. He is convinced that people from a migrant background will only feel truly at home in their new country if they experience at least a minimum of legal certainty and acceptance – which is not always an easy feat in Japan. Japanese society strongly identifies as ethnically homogeneous and does not consider itself a country of immigrants in the conventional sense. Jotaro draws great motivation from the EPRIE alumni network: The exchange with other program alumni encouraged him to take the step from working in the field to writing a Ph.D. thesis on integration. 

EPRIE 2018 will tackle a new, controversial topic: "Media in times of populism and post-truth politics - challenges and opportunities." Social media, hate speech, and the future of journalism will figure high on the agenda – naturally, also from a comparative Asian-European perspective. Are you a journalist, involved in media research, a student of Regional Culture Studies, or do you work for an NGO? Then send us your application by April 8th, 2018, via this link!

Sina Schindler talks about her understanding of integration and the value of the European-Asian exchange

Video about EPRIE 2017