Multiculturalism and Korean Immigration This Paper Explores Term Paper

Pages: 11 (3243 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian

Multiculturalism and Korean Immigration

This paper explores many issues of culture, race and the concept of multiculturalism within the context of the American melting pot. These issues of culture and especially multiculturalism warrant analysis as they define the American experience for immigrants. This paper will focus specifically on the Korean-American experience and what factors within that country led to many generations of families to leave for a better life in America. The paragraphs will first examine the concepts of culture and multiculturalism of today's America and look at how the melting pot has changed. By defining these concepts one can better understand the state of multicultural relations today and how these relations influence the future of American urban life. Second, this paper will look at the circumstances surrounding Korean immigration between 1900 and 1960, specifically focusing on South Korea. These paragraphs will describe the major economic, social and political changes that occurred in the region over a period of time. This will include an analysis of the changes and how these changes influence ancestor decision to migrate to the United States. Also included in this paper are the methods and data sources used as literature to determine the reasons for immigration. Finally as a conclusion, this paper will discuss the not only limitations of the study also the future of culture in America and how multiculturalism defines this future.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on Multiculturalism and Korean Immigration This Paper Explores Assignment

M.F. Ashley Montagu defines culture "from the Latin cultura and cultus which means care, cultivation or allowing to grow something" (3). Originally the connation attributive to "agriculture or cultivation of the soil" (Montagu 3). Only later did the word describe attributes of man and elements of personality within a group of men. From the beginning, the concept of culture was difficult to disseminate. Even today in a world without borders or limits due to telecommunications technology, it is still difficult to grasp the notion of American culture. Due its melting pot, we are a culture defined equally by many cultures. Hence, the concept of multiculturalism was born to accept everyone's culture. Lawrence Auster writes, "America is an assemblage of racially or ethnically defined subcultures, all of which have equal value and none of which can claim a privileged position" (1). This definition includes all aspects of culture including that of religion and creed, gender and sexuality. It really gives culture too many factors to be defined by accurately.

Still this definition fails to see that even though all cultures should be valued equally, there is still a hierarchy in existence that defines much of American society from the Western white point-of-view. Today, this frame of reference is fighting for a share as the original immigrants to this nation or white Europeans begin to become the minority. Still is surprising how whites still think of American culture based upon European ancestry. Ronald Takaki writes in his novel called a Different Mirror that "man had a narrow but widely shared sense of the past -- a history that has viewed American as European in ancestry" (2) and that somewhere in history American culture was defined as white. He explains that since the birth of this nation, its population has been diverse (Takaki 2). This quickly becomes more and more evident as today close to one-third of America's population can claim being of non-European origin. For instance the Asian-American influence has been evident for the last 150 years yet only recent has their voice been louder. Takaki elaborates, "Today, Asian-Americans represent the fastest growing ethnic group. They have also become the focus of much mass media attention as "the Model Minority" not only for blacks and Chicanos, but also for whites on welfare" (9). Takaki believes that through multiculturalism, we as Americans can begin to know each other. He surmises the importance to see the social constructs such as race that exist within American identity. He believes, "By looking at these groups from a multicultural perspective, we can comparatively analyze their experiences in order to develop an understanding of their differences and similarities" (11). This in turn offers us a baseline from which to define the new American experience not just as immigrants but as citizens of the greatest country in the world. It is multiculturalism that makes a melting pot possible and makes this country strong.

Korean Immigrations and Origins

For much of the 20th century Korea was a battlefield for Russia, China and Japan (Kim and Patterson par. 1). Because much of Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, "an estimated two hundred thousand Korean exiles lived in Manchuria and the Russian Far East" (Kang 35). Many of these exiles lived in the Maritime Province near Vladivostok where they were successful in assisting the Russian in the war against Japan. It was from these vast, hilly regions that many Korean exiles made their way to Hawaii and later California (Kang 36). In many ways, these exiles were far better off than their counterparts who stayed in Korea during the various conflicts as they never lost their spirit or industrious nature toward commerce. In these camps, many Korean prospered and this evident from the fact they were able to provide Korean-based schools for area children. These camps were also able to provide food to another exile camps. Kang writes that because of the settlements' success "there was excitement in both Siberia and the Manchuria province" (36) and because of strong anti-Japanese sentiment, many freedom fighters were able to cross the Yalu River and fight on Korean soil.

Still it was during this time that much of southern Korea suffered because of Japanese colonization. Meyer Weinberg explains that this region was "developed by Japan economically to serve the needs of Japanese empire" (76) and Japan did this by locating heavy industry in the south pillaging the region's labor and natural resources. During this colonization, much of the already established infrastructure including housing, schools and farms deteriorated because the Japanese has little interest in improving the living conditions. To make matters worse for the country, the western region was occupied by China which took advantage of the region's tributary system, later introduced Communism to the area bringing able the Korean War and resulted in division between north and south (Matray 150). As a result a vast majority of Korean-Americans come from towns found in these regions as eventually the north would be cut off from any outside contact or immigration. As a result, many families are still separated and divided by the politics of the last hundred years.

Major Economic, Social and Political Changes

Many of the first immigrants from Korea in America were members of diplomatic missions who were sent as a means of fact finding everything about American culture (Melendy par. 2). As a result, many Koreans found themselves originating by way of Honolulu, Hawaii because Dole Growers and the Sugar Planters Association were recruiting. Because of the conflicts with Japan and China, much of the living conditions in Korea's southern and western regions were stricken with poverty and famine. As a result much of the reason from migrating came from the need to have a better life. The politics of living under another country's rule, left Koreans unable to express themselves or have freedom of religion. In many ways, the areas these immigrants came from were no longer Korean by Japanese or Chinese. There was no real incentive to stay.

The first wave of migration happened because of a combination of factors including economic, social and political. This first wave consisted of 7,500 Koreans, who were not only looking for work but religious freedom (Kim and Yu par. 2). Because the majority of these immigrants were recruited to work in the plantations of Hawaii, the majority of them were single and male. This resulted in a huge migration of women as picture brides. Also for Koreans, there was a strong anti-Japanese sentiment growing not only because of the oppression caused by Japanese colonization but also because of the lack of religious freedoms. For a period of twenty years, Koreans left because they wanted to be able to practice Christianity. "It was estimated that nearly 40% of them had become Christians in Korea" (Yoon 52). It is this strong religious connection and kinship with American Christian Missionaries that made Koreans comfortable with the notion of migrating to the United States. It is because of their religious connection that for earlier immigrant the church became the center of their social, cultural and political activities in America (Yoon 52).

This first wave also opened the door for the next two waves of Korean immigrants to the main land of the United States as jobs on the plantations became scarce. As much as Chinese and Japanese immigrants outnumber that of Koreans because the Korean migrations started later (Kim and Yu par. 5) many scholars cannot ignore the success of Korean-Americans once they started migrating eastward. In California, many Koreans left to start businesses in the Mid-West as California laws became stricter in allowing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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