Migration to cities is supposed to produce a flow of remittances back to villages; those remittances, in turn, can contribute to rural development. The South Korean experience contradicts these expectations. Surveys reveal, surprisingly, that migrants to cities in Korea were net recipients of financial and material transfers. Why? This analysis finds that decision-rule models that highlight family strategies and norms help make sense of variations across and within Korean families in their remittance behaviour but do not explain why rural-to-urban transfers were so high in Korea specifically. The high level of reverse remittances is most likely a product of Korea’s quick urban transition: dislocations caused by colonialism, war, and a heavily urban-based pattern of industrialisation gave rise to permanent migrations from villages to large cities while encouraging the bypassing of forms of mobility which benefit villages and small towns. Migration drained rural communities in Korea, though reverse transfers might have contributed to national development. The essay concludes that debates about the developmental potential of migrant remittances should pay more attention to reverse flows and reflect more on the circumstances under which transfers contribute to development or stagnation in communities of origin.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/erikmobrand/2/