Multiculturalism and Korean Immigration This Term Paper

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Still those who stayed in the Los Angeles area formed in solidarity Koreatown even though many were brutalized as being seen connected to the Japanese (Kim and Yu par. 5).

During this time, settling in the United States meant many benefits to the Korean-American. It meant they no longer had to put up with Japanese imposed laws where traditional Korean language and culture was prohibited. In many cases, they could not even use their sur names. It meant they did not have to be made slaves in their own country. Literature suggests as Seong Woo Lee and et al. write that Korean-Americans benefited from migration more than their Asian counterparts because they saw opportunity (609). They saw opportunity in the forms of small business and education. With this in mind, this could be on reason why out of all the Asian immigrants, Koreans seem most prepared for American life (Lee et al. 609). They have already suffered the humiliation of Japanese colonization. in-Jin Yoon writes of the Korean migration "America is viewed as an open and fair place, whereas South Korea is viewed as a closed and unfair place for those who do not have social connections" (48). It can be hypothesized that many left because of economic opportunity for not only business opportunities but also educational opportunities. Both have a direct relationship on the success of the Korean-American experience. Because Japan was so oppressive in eradicating Korean culture by restructurizing Korean schools to imitate the Japanese educational system (Weinburg 76), the hardship to come to America did not seem so bad. They were also pushed by economic factors due to poverty and famine. The incentive to have warm food in the belly, probably motivated many Korean-Americans to succeed at their own business (Yoon 50).


According to Won Moo Hurh much of the Korean-American experience is defined by their ability to strike it out on their own. It is the impact of "small business activities that transforms the immigrant life" (228). At this time a great portion of the Korean-American population is engaged in entrepreneur activity or at least "30-40% of immigrant workers" (Hurh 228). Much of this can be attributed to their close relationships built on church but also their personal need to better their situation. This is done by being successful in business and education. Both means result in the Korean-American being able to provide for their families and that is something that could not be done in their homeland.

Korean immigrant views of America, shaped as they were by United States cultural influences and official anticommunist South Korean education, differed radically from that of many poor people in the communities they served: unaware of the shameful history of oppression of nonwhite immigrants and other people of color in the U.S., they regarded themselves as having arrived in a meritocratic "land of opportunity" where a person's chances for success are limited only by individual lack of ability or diligence. Having left a homeland where they foresaw their talents and hard work going unrecognized and unrewarded, they were desperate to believe that the "American dream" of social and economic mobility through hard work was within their reach.

Most of the newcomers had underestimated the communication barriers they would face. Their toil amounted to only a pile of gestures and the English they tried to speak changed and turned against them as they spoke it. Working 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, they rarely came into sustained contact with English-speaking Americans and almost never had time to study English. Not feeling at ease with English, they did not engage in informal conversations easily with non-Koreans and were hated for being curt and rude. They did not attend churches or do business in banks or other enterprises where English was required. Typically, the immigrant small-business owners used unpaid family labor instead of hiring people from local communities. Thanks to Eurocentric American cultural practices, they knew little or nothing good about African-Americans or Latinos, who in turn and for similar reasons knew little or nothing good about them. At the same time, Korean shop owners in South Central and Koreatown were affluent compared with the impoverished residents, whom they often exploited as laborers or looked down upon as fools with an aversion to hard work. Most Korean immigrants did not even know that they were among the many direct beneficiaries of African-American -- led Civil Rights Movement, which helped pave the way for the 1965 immigration reforms that made their immigration possible.

Unfortunately, data about the extent and role of immigrant entrepreneurship in the national economy are limited. Social scientists have spent considerable attention to studying the immigrant model, focusing on the group characteristics and opportunity structures that favor business creation, statistics that might provide an overview of the contributions made by immigrant small business owners are not available. Data is needed on the number of jobs that immigrant entrepreneurs create, on the economic value generated by their activities and the import and export they foster with their native regions. It is hopeful that such data will become available as improvements in technology has made global commerce possible for many of these firms. Still one can ignore the importance of the role immigrants have played in the resurgence of the nation's small business sector. Literature suggests that immigration has stimulated the drive for small business within the total population and this in turn has contributed to the transformation. Still it is not only at a national level, immigrant small business ownership has impact but also at the urban community level. These businesses provide stimulus in urban areas like New York and Los Angeles and offer a new socio-economic bracket in which for new immigrants to enter into the melting pot. Established businesses offer a basis from which new businesses can be born as many of the new immigrants already are connected by family ties. This creates social cohesion making adaptation easier and faster for Korean-Americans.

This type of trend toward immigrant small business ownership created a model called the Enclave model (Immigrant Entrepreneurs 3) where immigrants are able to create business alternatives not able to the native born workers. This happens because of the models characteristics of the following: (1) geographical concentration, (2) interdependent networks of social and business relationships, (3) and relatively sophisticated division of labor. This Enclave model functions as a substitute environment for the immigrant as this provides both community and employment to them.

With respect to the model, Korean-Americans were not simply the passive beneficiaries of an unique set of opportunities. Korean-Americans were predisposed to create economic possibilities for themselves and able to draw upon a variety of well-developed ethnic and class resources. It is because of certain language and educational barriers, that Korean-Americans (especially from the first wave of migration) were determined to open a small business within the community. This allows them to not only make a living but to recapture their lost status.

Methods and Data Sources

As part of this study many different articles and novels were perused to get an understanding of the Korean-American experience and an idea behind the different factors and influences that contributed to immigration to America for a better life standard. For the purposes of this paper, I wish I could have utilized first hand accounts from various family members but their experiences were too difficult to discuss. Part of the American immigrant experience in general comes in fragments for the next the generation. It has been found that many who survived the journey do not want to discuss it in detail. This has been my experience in researching and discussing this topic with family members. Also many of them who could give an accurate account have passed on and I did not want to use "stories" or hearsay in this research. I also wish as part of this paper I could have used more ancestral findings from the Internet but also found this limiting due to the information I already had from family members. As a result, my experience into understanding the Korean-American immigration experience is limited to the literature and data reviewed via academic journals and books. This led me to focus more on the multicultural aspect of the experience and the future than the actual immigration experience.


The future of multiculturalism has yet to be written or predicted. It is easy to say that in order for the United States to continue to build strength and remain the best country in the world, we must embrace each other and our differences. In fact, differences should not be seen as negatives but opportunities for growth and understanding. It is in the possibility of forging an American culture that many immigrants from distant lands have been able to set a foundation for their new lives. This in turn as resulted in a need for multiculturalism in the first place. It is going to extremely difficult for American as a…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Auster, Lawrence. "How Multiculturalism Took Over America." 9 July 2004: 1+. 28 June 2005

Hurh, Won Moo. The Korean-American Dream: Immigrant and Small Business in New. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs." Research Perspectives on Migration 1.2 (1997): 10+.

Kang, Connie, K. Home Was the Land of Morning Calm: A Saga of a Korean-American Family. Reading, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1995.

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