Abstract

This article focuses on the geopolitical backdrop and the dynamics of state-private partnerships that shaped the migrations of hundreds of thousands of Korean workers who sojourned for two to three years in infrastructural construction sites across Saudi Arabia between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s. It argues that the mobility channels between the two countries took shape not through oil and state governance alone, but also through US military complexes formed through a series of wars across East, Southeast, and West Asia following the Second World War; acute interest from the Saudi elite in finding alternative non-Western partners and in leveraging oil to promote the Palestinian cause in East Asia; and the preexisting ties between Korean business actors and their Saudi counterparts. Such migration infrastructure included direct transplantation of militarized organizational structures and residential camps from Korea to Saudi Arabia, lives behind which remained hidden from public view.

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