Group cues and public opposition to immigration: evidence from a survey experiment in South Korea

Shang E. Ha, Soo Jin Cho, Jeong Han Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


One view in the study of attitudes towards immigration is that public reactions depend on who the immigrants are. Using a survey experiment, we confirm that group cues matter: South Koreans are more likely to support liberal immigration policies, when immigrants are framed as North Korean defectors (coethnic group). When other groups cues—Korean Chinese (semi-coethnic group) or guest-workers from Indonesia (non-coethnic group)—are given, the level of support becomes significantly lower. Apparently clear evidence on the existence of favouritism towards coethnic group notwithstanding, the relationship between in-group favouritism and immigration threat is not simple, as demonstrated by the finding that individuals exposed to Korean Chinese cues are more likely to feel culturally and socially threatened than those exposed to Indonesian cues. Also, South Koreans experience higher levels of economic threat from North Korean defectors than from Korean Chinese and Indonesians. Additional analysis reveals that ethnic group cues affect public attitudes towards immigration policies not necessarily by heightening perceived threat towards immigrants, but by facilitating individuals’ emotional reactions to them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-149
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 2

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2013S1A3A2055285).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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