Min Chung Book Cover Younger Generation

Younger-Generation Korean Experiences in the United States is an edited anthology that compares two different cohorts of Korean Americans in the formation of ethnic and racial identities using thirteen personal essays written by 1.5-generation and second-generation Korean Americans. The first cohort grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s while the second cohort grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s. Each of the essays explores four influential factors of ethnic identity formation: (1) retention of ethnic culture versus adaptation into mainstream American culture, (2) participation in ethnic social networks, (3) connections/links to the mother country or lack thereof, and (4) experiences with racial prejudice and discrimination. The first three factors pertain to internal factors while the last one is an external factor.

The great increase in the Korean population in the United States, the accompanying increase in ethnic and social service organizations, and South Korea’s emergence as an economic and cultural power contributed to the later cohort’s greater retention of their cultural heritage compared to the earlier cohort. The substantial decrease in racism against Asian Americans also contributed to the second cohort’s acceptance of Korean-American ethnic identity more comfortably than the first cohort.

Although there is a great deal of academic literature on ethnic identity and the “new second-generation” children of post-1965 immigrants to the U.S., there are very few books that use personal narratives as the primary mechanism to explore these sociological topics. Furthermore, this book makes a particularly significant contribution to studies of 1.5- and second-generation ethnic identity formation since it contains essays by two different cohorts of Korean Americans, all of whom addressed similar points of comparison. This book will be useful and interesting to both scholars and lay readers, particularly to U.S.-born children of immigrants.

Prof Min Koreans in North America Book Cover

Koreans in North America is an edited anthology that focuses on Korean-American and Korean-Canadian experiences in the twenty-first century. Six of the eleven chapters were written by the editor, Pyong Gap Min, while the remaining five chapters were written by social science professors of Korean descent in the U.S. and Canada. 

This book contains a good balance of statistical data and qualitative information. There are no other books that cover such a wide range of topics related to North American Korean experiences. Additionally, this is the only book that covers different aspects of both Korean-American and Korean-Canadian experiences. Particular attention is paid to changes over time in many different facets of Korean life in North America, including settlement patterns, entrepreneurship, transnationalism, and identity issues. 

The first three substantive chapters provide quantitative data on changing patterns of Korean immigration to the U.S., Korean Americans’ settlement patterns, and Korean immigrant businesses in New York. Chapter 5 compares Korean Protestant, Catholic, and Buddhist religious institutions in New York. Chapters 6 and 7 provide survey data on Korean immigrants’ transnational ties to Korea. Chapter 8 examines the division of gender roles and marital power among two groups of wives of Korean international students. Chapters 9 and 10 focus on identity issues among second-generation Korean Americans. The last chapter provides a critical review of the literature on Korean Americans and a comprehensive bibliography. This book will be useful to beginning researchers, social workers, community leaders, and policy makers, as well as to scholars. 

This paper examines changes over time in Korean immigrants’ adaptations to the United States, primarily using public documents. It pays special attention to changes that have occurred in the twenty-first century. It focuses on changes in patterns of Koreans’ immigration and settlement, Korean Americans’ demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, patterns of Korean immigrant businesses, business-related intergroup conflicts, and ethnic organizations. The concluding section provides recommendations for Korean community leaders and government agencies in Korea about issues not examined in the text. The two main strengths of this paper are: (1) a comprehensive coverage of several important aspects of Korean-American experiences, using the most recent census data, and (2) detailed examinations of major changes in Korean immigrants’ experiences in the twenty-first century.

*This paper was originally presented at the International Conference on Korean Diaspora Studies, which was held at Korea University on September 28, 2013. Central Hub Project Group for Korean Diaspora Studies at Korea University organized the conference. Global Korean Community Research Center at Korea University, the Research Center for Korean Community at Queens College, and the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studes at UC Riverside hosted the conference.

Published in Statistical Reports

This study examines whether there is an earnings premium for fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation and U.S.-born Korean Americans in the labor market. The data come from the 2009-2011 American Community Surveys, and the sample is restricted to wage and salary workers. Logged annual wage and salary income was regressed on two dummy variables for bilingual competence—bilingual with fluent English proficiency and bilingual with limited English proficiency (English monolingual as reference category), controlling for indicators of human capital and the language-use environment. Findings show greater economic returns to fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation Korean women and U.S.-born Korean men, but there is no convincing evidence of a wage premium for fluent bilingualism among U.S.-born Korean women. Surprisingly, there is evidence of wage penalties for fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation Korean men in certain geographic areas and occupations. These mixed findings are consistent with the recent discussion of bilingualism as both human capital and ethnicity.

Key Words: Bilingualism, Earnings, Korean American, Generation, Gender 

*This paper was originally presented at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Research Center for Korean Community at Queens College, which was held at Queens College on April 5-7, 2013. This paper was also published in Development and Society, Volume 42, Number One, June 2013. We would like to thank Development and Society for allowing us to repost this article.

Building on insights from Min’s (2010) comparisons between Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus, and my findings of elite freshmen Korean racial insularity (2012), I use data from the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles (2004) survey to examine the extent to which religion serves to not only preserve ethnicity but also support insularity in young adult 1.5- and second-generation (“second generation” hereafter) Korean Americans. Findings suggest that at the racial level of comparison, second-generation Korean-American endogamy resembles that of white, black, and Latino endogamy; second-generation Korean-American endogamy reflects not only the highest intraracial marriage rate, but also the highest intraethnic marriage rate of all Asian groups in the sample. Further, religious married second-generation Korean Americans have the highest racially homogeneous composition rate in the congregations they attend relative to other racial groups and other Asian ethnicities. In multivariate analyses, these two dynamics of marital endogamy and congregational racial homophily produce strong effects on one another and diminish the unique Korean effect. Findings suggest that these group relational patterns are more evident for second-generation Korean Americans and may have implications for social mobility in a racialized context. 

*This paper was originally presented at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Research Center for Korean Community at Queens College CUNY, April 5-7, 2013. The paper was subsequently published in the journal Development and Society, Volume 42, Number 1, June 2013, pages 113-136. We would like to thank Development and Society for allowing us to post this paper on Korean American Data Bank. Special thanks to Thomas Chung for editorial assistance.

The Korean Community in the New York-New Jersey Area in the 1980s*

This article takes a historical overview of the Korean community in the New York-New Jersey area in the 1980s. In order to examine the special characteristics of the decade, it focuses on the following four topics: (1) the explosive immigration of Koreans to the U.S. and the New York area, (2) the settlement patterns of Korean immigrants in the New York area and the establishment of Korean enclaves, (3) Korean immigrants’ commercial activities in the New York area, and (4) Korean merchants’ business-related intergroup conflicts and reactive solidarity. The 1980s was the peak decade of Korean immigration to the U.S., with 30,000 to 36,000 Korean immigrants per year. They created a Korean enclave in the Flushing area with a Korean business district along Union Street between 41st Avenue and 33rd Street. The decade was also the period of Korean immigrants’ active business involvement in New York with the highest self-employment rate. In the 1980s, there were most Korean wholesale and trade companies in the Broadway Korean Business District in Manhattan among all decades. Finally, Korean retail store owners in New York City had most of their business-related intergroup conflicts, especially with white suppliers and black customers, in the 1980s.

*This article was published in the Journal of Choong-Ang Historical Studies, Volume 36 (2012): 573-640. The Research Center for Korean Community expresses thanks to the journal for giving permission to post the PDF file of the article on Korean American Data Bank for U.S. readers.

This research report examines the generational differences in Korean Americans’ socioeconomic attainments in the New York-New Jersey CMSA (Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area) based on the 2006-2010 American Community Surveys. For a better understanding of the generational differences in socioeconomic attainments, it compares the Korean groups with native-born white Americans and other Asian groups in the area (Chinese, Indians, and Filipinos). The paper also highlights gender differences in patterns of the generational differences. It considers educational levels, occupational patterns, socioeconomic conditions, homeownership, and health insurance coverage as the major components of socioeconomic attainments. Generation is divided into first-generation immigrants, the 1.5 generation (those who were born in a foreign country and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12 or earlier), and the U.S.-born generation (second or higher generation).    

This research report was originally presented at a lecture at Korean Community Services (KCS) at 35-56 159th Street, Flushing, NY 11358 on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. The talk was a part of the Research Center for Korean Community's ongoing lecture series. 

Published in Statistical Reports

This paper examines the impact of return migration to South Korea on the formation of hybrid ethnic identities in two immigrant communities, Korean Chinese (Joseonjok) and Korean Americans, within the Korean diaspora that emerge from two different state policies concerning ethnic minorities.  I explore how migration histories out of Korea impact the creation of stable Korean immigrant communities abroad and how these communities reproduce lifestyles and identities closely linked to the homeland by incorporating aspects of what it means to be “Korean,” embedded in a specific history, culture and tradition.  The findings are based on empirical data collected from semi-structured interviews conducted with 63 research participants, supplemented by informal conversations and participant observation during a 16-month fieldwork period in Seoul, South Korea between August 2004 and December 2005.  A comparative analysis of ethnic identity construction within the US assimilationist model and Joseonjok within a Chinese state protectionist model sheds light on the everyday negotiations of transnational “third culture kids” with ethnicity, nationality and gender ideologies.  The thread throughout the interviews is the struggle of cultural hybridity, of inhabiting a liminal space between two distinct national identities but linked to a diaspora through a sense of shared ethnic identity. 

The traditional cultural characteristics are challenged and negotiated in the process of acculturation. Some characteristics are discarded, others are maintained, still others may get strengthened, new characteristics from the new cultures are adopted, and possibly a new hybrid of a culture of family socialization may emerge. The focus group interviews conducted with Korean-American parents and their children attest to the complexity of this process mixed with core and peripheral changes. The study findings show that Korean-American families appear to live more distinctively in the Korean culture than the mainstream Western culture, and the parental cultural adaptation is, at least at this point, minimal. Korean immigrant parents show reluctance and resistance to change, except in some areas that they believe are necessary and potentially helpful to their children. Family values are core values that parents are eager to maintain and transmit to their children. Korean-American parents are also deeply concerned that their children are growing up as a racial and cultural minority, which they believe, is likely to impede children’s development and future prospects. To protect their children, parents focus quite intensively on ethnic socialization within the family. The overall responses suggest that Korean-American youth are aware of their minority status and cultural differences but have a positive and strong sense of ethnic identity as Korean-Americans, which also might be a sign of successful family socialization.  

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, there have been major changes in New York’s Korean community. Not surprisingly, the number of Koreans has grown, but much else is new as well. One new set of developments has been a change in the immigration process itself. There has been a gradual shift from a Korean family-based immigration pattern to immigration based on high-status occupations as well as a dramatic increase in the proportion of Koreans who have arrived on temporary visas and adjusted their status to permanent residents. Other changes relate to Koreans’ involvement in business. Koreans are still heavily involved in business, but the self-employment rate among Korean immigrants in the New York area has decreased; among those who own businesses, there has been a significant rise in the number of personal-service businesses and a decline in retail businesses. A third major transformation is the disappearance of business-related intergroup conflicts involving Korean immigrants that were so severe in the 1980s and the early 1990s. Finally, Korean ethnic organizations have changed as well, not only in number but also, among other things, in their roles and the characteristics of their members.


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