Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Qualitative Inquiry into the Life Experiences of Unaccompanied Korean Adolescents in the United States

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Qualitative Inquiry into the Life Experiences of Unaccompanied Korean Adolescents in the United States

Article excerpt


While international college students have been a popular subject in intercultural communication research probing a variety of cultural and psychological consequences of these students' global relocation (e.g., Ye, 2006), the results of only a few studies dealing with precollege international students have been reported (e.g., Kuo & Roysircar, 2006). This gap in the research exists not only because the number of precollege international students is much smaller than that of college students, but also because of various ethical issues in conducting research on international minors (Popadiuk, 2010). Consequently, despite the large number of Korean adolescents in English-speaking countries, there have been a limited number of academic studies conducted concerning this population. Moreover, a large number of studies have focused more on educational and psychological consequences than on the life experiences of these students (e.g., Ahn, 2011).

The effects of globalization and economic development in East Asian countries have led to a rapid increase in the international student population in English-speaking countries. During the past decade and a half especially, the number of young international students from Asia attending primary and secondary schools in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has dramatically increased (Kuo & Roysircar, 2004). Some early studies on these students refer to them as "unaccompanied minors," "parachute kids," and "visa students" (Chiang-Hom, 2004; Ying, 2001; Zhou, 1998). Because of Taiwan's unstable international status and the vague future of the country in relation to mainland China, the phenomenon of unaccompanied kids in Taiwan began earlier than in Korea; therefore, although studies are sparse, there is scholarship dealing with the psychological issues of Taiwanese unaccompanied sojourners (e.g., Kuo & Roysircar, 2006) focusing on parent-child relationships (Zhou, 1998) and probing the relationship between acculturation and stress (Kuo & Roysircar, 2004). Comparative studies on this population more clearly show the psychological and cultural distinctiveness of unaccompanied young sojourners compared to other immigrant adolescents who live with their parents (Chiang-Hom, 2004; Kuo & Roysircar, 2004).

In many disciplines, including psychology, education, and communication, there have been a large number of studies of Korean international college students (e.g., Lee, Koeske, & Sales, 2004). However, only a limited number of academic studies focusing exclusively on unaccompanied Korean adolescents has been published; a study conducted in education focused on the influences of curriculum and school culture in the United States in shaping the global perspectives of Korean adolescents (Ahn, 2011); a recent ethnographic study of Korean adolescents in Singapore reported ambivalent experiences of being global and local (Kang, 2013); other studies focused more on the social context of this phenomenon rather than on the microscopic interests of the population (e.g., Kang & Abelmann, 2011). Although these studies covered a wide aspect of Korean early study abroad, they did not particularly look at the life experiences of unaccompanied adolescents. Based on a series of in-depth interviews with unaccompanied Korean adolescents in the United States, the present study focused exclusively on the personal relationships, living conditions, and sociocultural contexts of their lives in the United States.

Unaccompanied Korean Adolescents

According to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System of the Department of Homeland Security, the number of Korean students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents reached 72,295 in 2012 (Project Atlas, 2012). The total number of precollege students has slowly decreased since the economic recession in 2008. However, there were still 18,742 Korean precollege students who enrolled in schools outside their home country in 2012 (KEDI, 2012). …

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