Around two million ethnic Koreans live in the United States. This makes them the second largest Korean diaspora, after the one in China; Los Angeles and New York even have the largest Korean populations outside of cities on the Korean Peninsula. Koreans in America have been referred to as a “model minority” due to their educational and economic achievements; yet they also face racial discrimination and isolation.
To learn more about how Koreans have navigated American issues of race and inequality, we met with Professor Nadia Kim. She told us about the history of Korean migration to the United States and the role of America’s military presence in Asia; the socialization process of immigrants that already starts on the Korean Peninsula; and the hardships Korean immigrants face once they arrive in the US.
Nadia Y. Kim is Associate Professor of Sociology at Loyola Marymount University. She obtained her Bachelor at the University of California – Santa Barbara and received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California – San Diego. Her most recent book and the subject of this interview is Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA (Stanford University Press).
It’s well established in Asian-American studies […] that one of the racial characterizations of Asian people in the United States is as being “foreign”. And by “foreign” we’re referring to the fact that if there’s a war with Korea, for example, say the US and Korea go to war […] Korean-Americans […] could actually be lumped in with Koreans and Korea. Because the idea is that those Koreans in the United States are actually not American, they’re not quintessentially American but that they’re from another country.
The interview was recorded on May 31st 2016 in Seoul.