Interactionist Theory and the Future status of Korean-American Immigrants

Whereas most sociological analyses necessitate an examination of an entire group – whether ethnic, racial, religious, or social – this study will be almost entirely based on a primary source, that is to say, my own personal experience with immigration and adaptation to American culture and society. Parrillo contends that Korean immigrants, despite an overall higher education compared to all other non-white migrant groups in America, remain on the bottom of tier of foreign settlers in terms of social acceptance and structural assimilation. (Parrillo, 319-320) The aforementioned thesis is perhaps valid from a macroscopic/macrosocial perspective.

However Parrillo’s argument is not viable at the micrscopic/microsocial level for several particular reasons relating directly to my personal relationships and experiences in acclimatizing to traditional American social attitudes and norms. It is the purpose of this essay to explore my personal history of relocation to and settlement in America – and in doing so refute Parrillo’s conclusions – in two parts. The first discussing my family’s origin and its impact on my current status as the first immigrant to America in my immediate family. The second segment will explore the latter more profoundly in addressing the following concepts: cultural assimilation, cultural pluralism, and interactionist theory.

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The Choi Family Origin

My ancestry dates back approximately 1500 years. Their settlement commenced on the east coast of the Korean peninsula – what is known today as Kangnung. From the simplest and most humble peasant farmer to great navel/military leaders and national saviors, my family established itself a significant and reliable amount of wealth and

social power and influence. Consequently, there existed little incentive for my relatives to seek fiscal and social stability elsewhere via emigration to another country. This familial trend persisted for approximately 1450 years until my maternal aunt and paternal uncle moved to America circa 1990. However, I consider myself the first authentic immigrant from the Choi family line. The intentions of my divergence from the deeply entrenched Choi tradition of seeking success in Korean society were primarily based on the opportunity of higher quality of education in American society and secondarily derived from a personal desire to experience and absorb American culture first hand.

The Life of a First Generation Émigré: My First and Final Impressions of American

Culture and Society

The first time I set foot on American soil, I was only 15 years of age. In retrospect, I now realize the extent of my naivet� in respect to my expectations and personal interpretation of American dream. However, complete and total immersion in the American life-style soon revealed the vast cleavage between perception and reality. Coming from an Asian country that has a high degree of American and Western influence, I anticipated that all Americans regardless of race and ethnicity enjoyed an equal life chance and prospect for upward social mobility. Nevertheless, after 5 years of residence in the United States, I gained a greater understanding of the far reaching maltreatment of racial and ethnic groups and social inequality that permeated all levels of American society. The proceeding segment examines my concerns with the current social status of Korean immigrants and Korean-American citizens.

Culture Assimilation and Cultural Pluralism

Cultural assimilation occurs when foreign settlers change their native cultural patterns to match those of the host society. (Parrillo, 63) In respect to my own experiences as a Korean immigrant, I can objectively state that I have quite successfully managed assimilate to American cultural and societal norms. However, my previously mentioned apprehensions stem from Parrillo’s contention that Korean-Americans are in fact located at the lowest level of social integration in American society.

This is the result of the Korean-American immigrant tendency and conscious decision to not fully acculturate to American social norms as a defense mechanism against cultural diffusion. It is my opinion that Korean Émigrés should, to an extent that is healthy for themselves and the stability of American society, embrace certain elements of American culture (i.e., learning English and interacting as often as possible with both white and non-white Americans). At the same time, however, Koreans should practice certain norms and values imported from Korea and thus foster a sound balance between cultural assimilation and cultural pluralism.

Conclusion: Interactionist Theory and the Future status of Korean-American Immigrants

In the final analysis the most effective means of rectifying the cultural and social isolationist inclinations of Korean settlers in America is to encourage individual interaction (among all Koreans residing in America) with other white and non-white Americans on a much more intense basis. I personally discovered the previous statement to be the solution to the difficulties I came across in assimilating to American social norms.

This initiative should be championed, facilitated, and supported by regional Korean-American leaders throughout the country in an effort to better sustain the loose cultural and social fabric of the greater American community. Koreans must realize, as I did, that becoming an outgoing person and interacting frequently with those outside their own race and ethnicity is not an irreversible step towards losing their culture forever. Rather it is a means by which to become a contributing element to the greater American community and society.