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Study to examine how Korean immigrant families overcome challenges

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A team of researchers at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign has launched a multi-year study to learn how Korean immigrant families achieve academic and economic success in the face of the challenges and struggles they encounter in the United States.

The study, which involves both research and an outreach initiative, is supported by grants from the university’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Asian American Studies Program.

Using surveys, field interviews and observation, the research team will focus on Korean American adults and teens in and near Chicago. Chicago is home to the third-largest Korean American population in the United States.

The project team includes Nancy Abelmann, professor of anthropology and East Asian languages; Sumie Okazaki, professor of psychology; and Angela Wiley, professor of human and community development.
According to Okazaki, the goal of the two-year study is “to better understand the ways in which Korean American families overcome the various challenges posed by economic, societal and immigration stressors.”

The team hopes to be able to draw on their findings on Korean Americans to help other immigrant families “on their path to success.”

Okazaki said that the literature shows that despite their high levels of stress, Asian American youth “typically exhibit a remarkable ability to manage pressure and challenges.”

Moreover, “Their psychological resilience appears to mirror that of adult Asian Americans,” she said, noting that “there also are families who are struggling under a considerable strain. We are interested in learning about how to support vulnerable Korean American families, as well.”

Abelmann, a leading researcher of South Korean contemporary society and of Korean Americans, said that the team is “very excited that the University of Illinois is funding this project.”

“This support speaks to the university’s commitment to its Asian and Korean American students,” she said.

Kent Ono, director of the university’s Asian American Studies Program, said that the funding that made this project possible reflects “the university’s commitment to addressing the experiences of the Asian American population in Illinois.”

“The research results will make a very important contribution to the scholarship on Asian American families,” Ono said.

The research team will begin recruiting participants for its study through select Chicago-area churches and community organizations in spring 2003. The researchers said they also are interested in “the important contribution that Korean churches and community organizations make to families’ well-being and success.”