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Korean Americans (Korean: , Hanja: , hangukgye migugin) are Americansmarker of Korean descent. The Korean American community is the fifth largest Asian American subgroup, after the Chinese American, Filipino American, Indian American, and Vietnamese American communities. The United Statesmarker is home to the second largest overseas Korean community in the world after Chinamarker.


As of 2000, there were approximately 1.41 million Korean Americans, with the beginning of Korean immigration to Hawaii (United States), large populations in Californiamarker (esp. in the Los Angelesmarker and San Franciscomarker metro areas), New Yorkmarker, New Jerseymarker, Illinoismarker, Washingtonmarker, Texasmarker, Virginiamarker, Marylandmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, and Georgiamarker.

Los Angeles, with its Koreatown district, is home to the largest population of ethnic Koreans outside of Asia. Palisades Park, New Jerseymarker has the highest concentration of people of Korean ancestry in the United States at 36.38% of the population. Georgia is home to the fastest-growing Korean community in the U.S., growing at a rate of 88.2% from 1990 to 2000.[32550]

According to the statistics of the Overseas Korean Foundation and South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 107,145 South Korean children were adopted into the United States between 1953-2007.

In a 2005 United States Census Bureau survey, an estimated 432,907 ethnic Koreans in the U.S. were native-born Americans, and 973,780 were foreign-born. Korean Americans that were naturalized citizens numbered at 530,100, while 443,680 Koreans in the U.S. were not American citizens.


Korean-American football player in Chicago, 1918
In 1884, two American missionaries went to Korea: Henry Appenzeller, a Methodist, and Horace Underwood, a Presbyterian. Emphasizing the mass-circulation of the Bible (which had been translated into Korean between 1881 and 1887 by the Reverend John Ross, a Scottishmarker Presbyterian missionary in Manchuria), the Protestant pioneers also established the first modern educational institutes in Korea. The Presbyterian Paichai School (배재고등학교) for boys was founded in 1885, and the Methodist Ehwa girls' school (이화여자고등학교) followed a year later. These, and similar schools established soon afterwards, facilitated the rapid expansion of Protestantism among the common people, and in time enabled the Protestant faith to overtake Catholicism as the leading Christian voice in Korea.

One of the first Korean Americans was Seo Jae-pil, or Philip Jaisohn, who came to America shortly after participating in a coup with other progressives to institute political reform in 1884. He became a citizen in 1890, and earned a medical degree 1892 from now George Washington University. Throughout his life, he strove to educate Koreans in the ideals of freedom and democracy, and pressed the U.S. government for Korean independence. He died during the Korean war. His home is now a museum, cared for by a social services organization founded in his name in 1975.

A prominent figure among the Korean immigrant community is Ahn Chang Ho, pen name Dosan, a Protestant social activist. He came to the United States in 1902 for education. He founded the Friendship Society in 1903 and the Mutual Assistant Society. He was also a political activist during the Japanese occupation of Korea. There is a memorial built in his honor in downtown Riverside, California and his family home on 36th Place in Los Angeles has been restored by University of Southern California. The City of Los Angeles has also declared the nearby intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Van Buren Place to be "Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Square" in his honor. The Taekwondo pattern Do-san was named after him.

Another prominent figure among the Korean immigrant community was Syngman Rhee (이승만), a Methodist. He came to the United States in 1904 and earned a Bachelors at George Washington University and a Ph.D from Princeton University. In 1910, he returned to Korea and became a political activist during Japanese occupation of Korea. He later became the first president of South Korea.

The first group of Korean laborers came to Hawaiimarker in January 1903 to fill in gaps created by problems with Chinese and Japanese laborers. Between 1904 and 1907 about 1,000 Koreans entered the mainland from Hawaii through San Francisco. Many Koreans dispersed along the Pacific Coast as farm workers or as wage laborers in mining companies and as section hands on the railroads. Picture brides became a common practice for marriage to Korean men.

After the annexation of Koreamarker by Japanmarker in 1910, Korean migration to the United States was virtually halted. The Immigration Act of 1924 or sometimes referred to as the Oriental Exclusion Act was part of a measured system excluding Korean immigrants into the US. In 1952 with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, opportunities were more open to Asian Americans, enabling Korean Americans to move out of enclaves into middle-class neighborhoods. When the Korean War ended in 1953, small numbers of students and professionals entered the United States. A larger group of immigrants included the wives of U.S. servicemen. As many as one in four Korean immigrants in the United States can trace their immigration to the wife of a serviceman. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Koreans became one of the fastest growing Asian groups in the United States, surpassed only by Filipinos.

In 1965, the Immigration Act abolished the quota system that had restricted the numbers of Asians allowed to enter the United States. Large numbers of Koreans, including some from North Koreamarker that had come via South Koreamarker, have been immigrating ever since, putting Korea in the top five countries of origin of immigrants to the United States since 1975. The reasons for immigration are many including the desire for increased freedom and the hope for better economic opportunities.
A wide range of Korean Americans
In the 1980s and 1990s Koreans became noted not only for starting small businesses such as dry cleaners or convenience stores, but also for diligently planting churches, with the same fervor as the early Puritan fathers who came to New England. With fervent piety and hope of that Promised Land, they would venture into abandoned cities and start up businesses which happened to be predominantly African American in demographics. This would sometimes lead to publicized tensions with customers as dramatized in movies such as Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, and the LA Riots of April 1992.

Their children, along with those of other Asian Americans would also be noted in headlines and magazine covers in the 1980s for their numbers in prestigious universities and highly skilled white collar professions. Favorable economics and education have led to the painting of Asian groups such as the Koreans as a "model minority." Throughout the 1980s until today, Korean Americans and other East Asian groups continue to attend prestigious universities in high numbers and make up a large percentage of the professional white collar work force including such fields as medicine, law, computer science, finance, and investment banking.However, many highly educated Korean Americans working in prestigious white collar jobs (particularly in finance and investment banking) have been laid off in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis hitting America and the world.

A number of U.S. states have declared January 13 as Korean American Day in order to recognize Korean Americans' impact and contributions. Famous Korean-Americans include U.S. Federal judge Herbert Choy, actress/comedian Margaret Cho and professional golfer Michelle Wie.

In recent years, ethnic Koreans from Mexico and Latin America (see Korean Mexican and Korean Peruvian) emigrated to the U.S. bringing further diversity to the Korean-American community. There has been an intermingling of Korean and Central American cultures together with increasing ethnic intermarriage between Koreans and Central Americans. Both groups are concentrated in the central section and there is some similarity between the North and South Korean, and Guatemalan or Salvadoran immigrants who came to America for both economic fulfillment and political asylum from communist rule. Among these people with Korean ancestry from Latin America and descendants of Korean and Central American settlers speak Spanish, are Eurasians, and may be raised as Catholic Christians.


In a poll from the Asia Times before the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, Korean Americans narrowly favored Republican candidate George W. Bush by a 41% to 38% margin over Democrat John Kerry, with the remaining 19% undecided or voting for other candidates. In the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, Korean Americans favored Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain, around 59% to 41%. However, there are still more registered Republican Korean Americans than registered Democrats.


Korean Americans in America have historically had a very strong fundamentalist and conservative Christian heritage. Between 70% and 80% identify as Christian; 40% of those consist of immigrants who were not Christians at the time of their arrival in the United States. There are about 2,800 Korean Christian churches in the United States, as compared to only 89 Korean Buddhist temples; the largest such temple, Los Angeles' Sa Chal Temple, was established in 1974.

Notable people



Business & Economics

The 1997 U.S. Economic Census confirmed many of the anecdotal pictures of Korean business patterns that have been reported in Korean newspapers. With more than 155,000 businesses, Koreans rank third among APAs, after the Chinese and Indians. But their tendency to enter into business is one of the highest among all minority ethnic/racial groups. For instance, the rate of Korean business ownership is 71 percent higher than their share of the population, highest of all the major Asian ethnic groups.

  • Wendy Lee Gramm, economics professor, former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and wife of former Senator Phil Gramm
  • Ho "Charles" Kim and Hyung-soon "Harry" Kim, owners of "Kim Brothers" farm in Reedly California, patent holders for the "Le Grand" and Sun"Grand nectarine.
  • David J. Kim, founder of C2 Education, named one of the top 30 young entrepreneurs, by Entrepreneur Magazine.
  • Shelly Hwang and Young Lee, founders of Pinkberry
  • Do-Won Chang and Jin Sook, founders of Forever 21




Korean American writers


  • Martha Choe, former council member, City of Seattle, Washington
  • Herbert Choy, U.S. Federal judge
  • Harry Kim, a former mayor of Hawaii County, Hawai'i
  • Jay Kim, former Republican Congressman from California
  • Ron Kim, Council Member, Saratoga Springs, New York
  • Cheryl Lee, former council member, City of Shoreline, Washington
  • Paull Shin, Washington state senator,
  • Michael Park, former mayor of Federal Way, Washington
  • Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Cindy Ryu, mayor of Shoreline, Washington
  • Michelle Park Steel, California Board of Equalization Member
  • Sam Yoon, first Asian-American Boston City councilor
  • John Yoo, attorney and former official in Bush's Justice Department



See also


External links

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