The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City
Mark, Robert, Ethnic Studies Review
Kyeyoung Park. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997). 228 pp., $15.95 paper.
Kyeyoung Park illustrates how the Korean American dream emerges from a harsh reality. Park's central argument is that Korean immigrant adjustment is driven by an ideology of self-help. Within the context of this ideology, Korean immigrants see a close connection between entrepreneurial activity and basic survival in America. It is argued that the primacy of establishing one's own small business in order to generate stability and security has an overarching influence on the activities of individual Korean immigrants and the Korean American community in general. From this premise, Park describes how the preoccupation with entrepreneurship for subsistence shapes various spheres of life for Korean Americans. Chapters discuss how this ideological orientation sets the parameters for familial relations, gender roles, working conditions, political activities, and religious practices in the Korean community.
Interestingly, the Korean American dream is laden with contradictions. Old constraints are replaced with new ones as familial and gender roles shift in response to conditions in the United States. Although an entrepreneurial ethos forms the nucleus of the Korean American ideology, many Korean owned businesses experience financial difficulties and high rates of insolvency. In fact, Park points out that most Koreans experience downward mobility after coming to America. The contradictions of the Korean American dream are even reflected in religious activities. For instance, Park describes how Christian fundamentalism provides Korean Americans with a source of social support and escape from economic adversity, while simultaneously reinforcing the entrepreneurial ethos embedded in the Korean American community. …