Call For Unity
From Korea Times
August 15, 2002
By Lee, Ki-Young
About 30 years ago, there were not many Koreans living in
America. When a Korean man comes across another Korean man on the
street or in the subway, he would first ask, "Are you a Korean?"
Then the two would start a conversation as if they have been friends
for a very long time. If one asked for directions to a certain place,
then the other would even spend his own money to transport him to
the right place.
New Yorks grocery market, which is mostly dominated by Koreans,
was a new type of industry for Koreans in the early 1970s. During
that time, few Korean immigrants who had succeeded in running grocery
markets gladly helped out fellow Korean immigrants by lending them
money to start their own grocery market. As a result, the number
of Korean-owned grocery markets increased drastically.
Korean immigrants also formed a so-called "mutual financing
aid club." It was an organization to help out members who were
facing financial difficulty. Many people who borrowed money to start
their own grocery business joined this club to pay back the money.
Most Korean immigrants at the time were very poor and did not have
anyone. They had to depend on other Koreans. They had ties of friendship
and sympathy for each other.
Nevertheless, as the number of Korean immigrants increased, the
situation changed completely. People who recently moved to America
from Korea would ask without being aware of the changed situation,
" Are you Korean?" And they would get an answer with an
annoyed look "yeah but why?"
As fierce competition increased among Koreans in the same industry,
the unnecessary tension increased as well. If a Korean man happens
to look in on a Korean store, the owner would squint with a reproachful
That is not all there is to it. People who immigrated to America
from Korea very early were able to acquire permanent visas or American
citizenship. There are, however, a number of Korean immigrants who
are staying in America illegally. Korean employers who hired illegal
Korean immigrants would discriminate against them, distinguishing
them from the rest of other employees.
As the time passed by, Korean immigrants daily lives became
very convenient as more and more Korean stores were built in an
area where numerous Korean immigrants settled down. Korean areas
have everything from professional occupations, such as doctors and
lawyers to privately owned businesses like restaurants, supermarkets.
There are almost all the stores people need to survive. Therefore,
recent Koreans immigrants do not even have to speak English to live
Nonetheless, many problems are raised from this situation. Many
people have complained about the price and quality of the products
purchased from Korean stores. After buying products once or twice
from Korean stores, many customers refused to have business relationship
As time passed by quickly, Koreans have led their society into
another level. In reality, Koreans who are very prosperous and considered
"high-class" do not get involved in Korean community. There are
probably many other reasons for this situation, but one of main
assumptions made is that high-class Koreans do not have any respect
for the recent Korean immigrants.
In order to lead Koreans into a more powerful and more affluent
society, we need to bring the high-class Koreans into the Korean
community, while also bringing in other Americans and immigrants
from different communities.
If Koreans manage to get Americans or other foreigners to eat Korean
food in Korean restaurants, buy Korean-made electronic products
from Korean stores, and buy Air line tickets from Korean travel
agencies, then the Korean community will become larger and more
prosperous. In order to achieve this phenomenon Koreans first need
to learn to trust each other.
If Koreans cannot rely on each other, the Korean community will
get smaller and weaker, and will eventually disappear in America.
This does not mean that Koreans must rely on the Korean community
in order to survive in America. However, since there are countless
Koreans living in America, Koreans will be able acquire power if
Koreans trust each other and come together.
The only solution is trust. Without the trust, we will lose the
centripetal force and centrifugal force, which will eventually result
in a breaking of the bond among Koreans. Therefore, we need to be
able to trust each other. We should not lie and deceive, instead
we need to help out our fellow Koreans.
Translated from Korean by Julia Yook.