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Koreans in the diaspora : identity development of Korean immigrant students in a multicultural context Kim, Ihhwa

Abstract

The objective of this study is to approach the lived experiences and the identity development of Korean immigrant students in Canada. The concept of diaspora suggests to look at the new style of identity in a global world. In order to describe Korean students' transnational experience, the study attempts: 1) to determine the influence of immigration on the development of students' identity, 2) to examine the cultural and racial experience in different situations, 3) to discuss how Korean students situate themselves and develop their self-concepts in relationship to others. The study employed a qualitative method and conducted ten individual, semi-structured interviews. In the study, ten Korean immigrant students were asked about their immigration backgrounds, their experiences at school and home, their friendships with Korean friends and non-Korean friends, and their future plans. My analysis attempts to examine the discrepancy between: 1) how Korean students see themselves, 2) how they think they are viewed by others 3) what they aspire to become in the future. Most Korean students identified themselves as "Korean" while others described themselves as "Asian" or did not wish to identify themselves. However, their self-definitions did not always coincide with how others saw them in different situations. At school, students tended to be seen as Asians by the mainstream, and shared the experience of being victims of racism. This shared experience along with the cultural similarity allowed them to have closer relationships with Asians. However, physical, cultural and historical "invisibility" of Koreans among Asians contributed to create a sense of inferiority. At home, students try to reward their parents' sacrifices by being "successful" at school, planning a future career, as well as maintaining Korean traditions at home. Korean students develop new identities in their country of settlement, but at the same time, they are still mentally connected to their country of origin. The source of Korean identity is readily accessible in a multicultural society, and globalisation facilitates a connection for Koreans to their homeland. The concept of diaspora presents a new look at the minority students' special relationship to their countries of settlement and their country of origin. It can give a deeper understanding of the social reality in which minority students live.

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