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The Migration Information Source just released a report on Korean Immigrants in the United States.
Some notable findings:
- There were 1.5 million members of the Korean diaspora residing in the United States in 2008.
- In 2008, 51 percent of Korean foreign-born adults had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- More than one in four Korean immigrants did not have health insurance.
- About 251,000 children under age 18 resided in a household with a Korean immigrant parent.
And a notable absence:
- Not a single mention of whether or not, and how, transnationally adopted Koreans fit into this picture.
I’m interested in this not only because I’m a Korean American immigrant and therefore one body counted in this data, but also because of how it affects and reflects both my personal and professional lives.
Most of my family members are small business owners and have struggled to get, maintain, and use health insurance. More than 1 in 4? That’s a frightening ratio. What the data doesn’t tell you is the actual or estimated physical/medical/mental health needs of said Korean diaspora, and the rate at which we can/not access the necessary resources.
If more than half of Korean immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher, what does that mean for our attitudes towards education, libraries, our children’s education, etc? Are we now working in careers that are commensurate with our degrees, expertise, skills? Earning salaries that are on par with our non-Korean immigrant colleagues? And then those 251,000 children – what kind of library services, school media resources, children’s and young adult literature will they need?
And finally, do the Migration Information Source and US Census count transnationally adopted Koreans? Or are they categorized, counted, and analyzed elsewhere? And if so… where? And why?
My friend, professor, writer and activist Jennifer Kwon Dobbs was on 1:48 Voices from within the Korean Diaspora. From the website:
Featured guest : Jennifer Kwon Dobbs – author of “Paper Pavilion,” currently working on second book, guest editor of the 3rd edition of JKAS and assistant professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota
Reporting by: kim thompson
*** Jennifer Kwon Dobbs’ bio:
“Jennifer Kwon Dobbs received the New England Poetry Club’s Shelia Motton Book Award for her debut collection of poetry, Paper Pavilion (White Pine Press 2007). Currently assistant professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, Kwon Dobbs is working on an essay collection about the political geographies of overseas Korean adoptee birth searches and a second book of poetry.”
Blog and info about Paper Pavilion: http://www.jkwondobbs.com
About the show:
This is a report that will air once every 3 weeks and will feature korean adoptees who are artists, activists, and philosophers.
I (kim thompson) will do the reporting and through the suggestions of others as well as my own contacts bring on different voices from within the adoptee community who live both in Seoul and abroad. For the time being it will air as a regular report that is featured on the “Steve Hatherly Show”
The reason that I’ve named the report thus is due to this fact (which I extracted from an article by Jane Jeong Trenka )
“since 1953 about 200,000 korean children have been sent to the west for adoption. with korea having a population of approximately 48 million this means one in every 48 korean citizens is affected by adoption. this show will feature some of those 200,000 who have returned home.”
Click here to listen to Jennifer Kwon Dobbs.
Funny that in the same week I found two websites that profiled and/or incorporated my comments into an article; actually, I didn’t find them myself. A friend saw my profile on iamkoreanamerican.com (they requested my participation so I submitted a profile, but was not notified that it was approved and posted!) and the St Kate PR folks found an article from Sept 23, 2009 that quoted me (from a questionnaire I filled out a couple months ago for the publisher, Lee & Low).
Paula Yoo’s Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story is an important contribution to children’s literature (not just Asian American children’s literature) because it debunks the simplistic notion that Anna May Wong was nothing more than an Asian fetish for the white American male. Paula writes about the anxiety and discomfort that Anna May Wong experienced as a minority actress in a majority white environment — an environment that continues to misrepresent and exploit the work and talents of Asian American performers. Asian women are often sexually exploited and Asian men are made effeminate and impotent; hardly desirable roles in mainstream media. Anyway, Anna May Wong may have started out in roles that were less than ideal, but as she progressed in her career she was able to be pickier about how she chose to represent the Asian diaspora.
The goal of the iamkoreanamerican.com project is to “compile a collection of profiles that showcase the diversity and many interesting personalities of the Korean American population. We hope that our collective efforts will provide a snapshot of the Korean American community at this point in our history.” It’s been really neat to read about so many different Korean Americans in different places, and also to think about how the intersection of our identities and experiences have all brought us to this website.
All that to say YAY for raising awareness about Asian American children’s books that raise awareness about important Asian Americans, and for projects that interrogate and showcase the complexity of the Korean diaspora!