The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City

The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City

The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City

The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City

Synopsis

Korean immigrants to the United States establish their own small businesses at a rate exceeding that of immigrants from any other nation, with more than one third of all Korean immigrant adults involved in small businesses. Kyeyoung Park examines this phenomenon in Queens, New York, tracing its historical bases and exploring the transformation of Korean cultural identity prompted by participation in an enterprise. Park documents the ways in which Korean immigrants use entrepreneurship to improve the quality of their lives, focusing on their concerns and anxieties, as well as their joys. The concept of "anjong" is crucial to the lives of first-generation Korean Americans in Queens, Park explains. The word may be translated as "establishment," "stability," or "security," and it identifies a particular concept of success through which Koreans make sense of the American ideology of opportunity. What they seek is not great wealth or social position but rather the creation of their own small businesses as a way of realizing the American dream. The pursuit of "anjong" is important enough to justify changes in gender and kinship relations, resulting in the rise of a Korean American women-centered and sister-initiated kinship structure. Commitment to the concept has also inspired a different understanding of class, ethnicity, and race, and stimulated new religious ideas and practices.

Excerpt

In 1984, I joined the New Immigrants and Old Americans Project directed by Roger Sanjek at Queens College CUNY. Our team members conducted research on African American, Latin American, Chinese, Indian, Korean, and white populations in Queens (See Gregory 1992, 1993; Danta 1989; Chen 1992; and Khandelwal 1991). To conduct my research, I moved from Manhattan to a three-generation Korean immigrant household in Queens, where I lived for eighteen months observing the community and conducting open-ended and loosely structured interviews. I listened to my interviewees' sometimes lengthy stories which resembled Sinse T'aryŏng or traditional Korean narrative. T'aryŏng is a kind of storytelling performed to the rhythmic beat of a drum. Sinse is an account of one's lot, fate, or circumstance; the term connotes self-pity or a sense of sadness. Thus, Sinse T'aryŏng is the telling of one's experience to obtain sympathy from listeners. For immigrants such storytelling becomes a strategy for coping with class distinctions in American society and status inconsistency between new and old homes. Sinse T'aryŏng narratives often sound bitter and negative, and they contrast with immigrants' overall evaluations of life in America.

Most of my interviews were conducted at the stores of Korean immigrants, and I often had to stop every few minutes so that my interviewees could attend to their customers. Some subjects, however, could not be interviewed in the workplace. In such cases, unless they invited me to their houses, I met them after work, sometimes after ten o'clock at night, at a nearby pizza parlor, coffee shop, or bar. Often I felt guilty because I was disturbing their work or making them even more tired after a long . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.