Seattle's Korean community: How immigration makes us all stronger

The vitality of Seattle's Korean American community shows how America can benefit from more intelligent immigration policies.
The University of Washington helped foster extensive knowledge of Korean culture in Seattle. In 2011, a U.S. tour by Korean authors began at the UW and University Bookstore.

The University of Washington helped foster extensive knowledge of Korean culture in Seattle. In 2011, a U.S. tour by Korean authors began at the UW and University Bookstore. HyeonsikMoon/Flickr

The current national debate on immigration and the policy decisions that will be made will have impacts ranging from Microsoft’s ability to recruit talent to the ability of apple farmers harvesting a crop; from uniting families to international student’s options for seeking a U.S. education. The Puget Sound region and Washington state are dependent on international business and the relationships that support our success. Our diverse communities not only provide the cultural and language skills to interact with the world but add to the richness of our community.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reported on Nov. 5 that King County’s multiracial growth was second in the United States over the past 12 months, exceeded only by Los Angeles. Bellevue is over 30 percent foreign born and Seattle 25 percent. Whether you are a newspaper, theater company, medical provider or retailer, to be successful, you must understand the changing demographics of the Puget Sound community. ACT’s development of Ramayana represents their understanding that there are also over 60,000 people of India heritage living in our area.

Exploring our neighborhoods provides a portrait of the human basis for our success, both economically and culturally.

A drive along Aurora Avenue in Shoreline would make you think you were visiting Seattle’s sister city with Daejeon, Korea. Regionally, our Korean American community is over 60,000 strong and owns more than 3,000 businesses.

The new Korean Free Trade Agreement, signed by the United States and Korea, will prompt even stronger business, maritime and air relations between our two countries. The Korean community is an example of our expanding diversity. As HistoryLink noted, “Korean Americans may be our least visible Asian American ethnic community. Yet this fast-growing population may also be one of the Puget Sound’s most resourceful, energetic, and culturally rich immigrant groups.”

Korean’s business is not just concentrated in a few neighborhoods. Magnolia, as an example, has a Korea-managed cleaning business and an excellent restaurant that serves Japanese and Chinese food. There is a Korean grocers association because of the significant number of small grocery stores. The region has numerous Korean churches. There is a wealth of organizations, including a Korean-American Chamber of Commerce led by Yun S. Hong and a Korean America Association, energetically run by Sandra Englund.

Korean Americans are a vital part of the Greater Seattle community. In the state House of Representatives, Cyndy Ryu, representing Shoreline and nearby parts of north King and south Snohomis County, is the assistant majority whip; Paul Shinn serves the Edmonds area in the Senate. The mayor of Tacoma was born in Seoul, Federal Way has had a Korean-American mayor and Martha Choe, now chief administration office for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was a Seattle City Council member. Microsoft has a Korean Employees Association.

The Republic of South Korea is one of our country’s major business partners. It represents our seventh largest trade partner and second biggest export customer for services, according to a presentation by the Korean Embassy's minister of the economy, Gheewhan Kim, who recently visited Seattle. Korean generates the third largest number of foreign students and is our eighth largest source of visitors. The trade balance is roughly equal. The new free trade agreement will strongly enhance this relationship as duty on U.S. farm products, including wine, decreases.

Kim noted our state is a net winner with Korea. Washington exported to Korea in 2011 $3.3 billion in goods and imported $1.9 billion. South Korea is our state’s fourth largest export market. Our ports are a major gateway for both Korean shipping lines and Sea-Tac International Airport is a gateway for both Asiana and Korean airlines. Our logistics industry is active with this market. Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau contracted with Seoul based Connect-Worldwide (CWW South Korea) to promote Seattle and Washington state as the destination’s first representative tourism office in South Korea. Investment is flowing into the United States at a much greater rate than we are investing in Korea.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Nov 21, 5:46 a.m. Inappropriate

What percentage of Korean immigrants are illegal aliens? Very few. Americans appreciate the in migration of legal immigrants to this country. The article points to the numerous contributions and rich heritage of the Korean people who have taken the chance to come to America. When Korean's wait in line, following the immigration laws and come to this country, what do the find? A President and an Administration that disrespects their legal behavior and rewards illegal behavior of those illegal alien immigrants who benefit from having a contiguous border to cross with the United States.

Cameron

Posted Wed, Nov 21, 11:06 a.m. Inappropriate

Many good points. As someone who grew up in the Korean community, I wanted to note a few things:

Korean’s business is not just concentrated in a few neighborhoods. Magnolia, as an example, has a Korea-managed cleaning business and an excellent restaurant that serves Japanese and Chinese food. There is a Korean grocers association because of the significant number of small grocery stores.

I've just moved to Magnolia myself. The drycleaner I've been patronizing so far is indeed Korean and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the others in the neighborhood were Korean as well. I am, in fact, rather surprised when I walk into a drycleaner's shop and the owner is not Korean. As for the restaurant, I believe I know the one you're talking about and am glad to hear the food is good. I was disappointed to see that they did not have at least a few Korean dishes on the menu. Most Japanese/teriyaki restaurants in Seattle appear to be Korean-run, and lately many have been adding Korean food to their menu. There will probably never be a full-on Korean restaurant in Magnolia, but it would be nice to see these folks take the leap.

I would say that it is still the case that Korean-focused businesses (as opposed to Korean-owned businesses) are concentrated in particular neighborhoods (Shoreline, along Aurora; the University District; Federal Way). But Korean-owned small businesses are indeed everywhere.

Korean Americans are a vital part of the Greater Seattle community. In the state House of Representatives, Cyndy Ryu, representing Shoreline and nearby parts of north King and south Snohomis County, is the assistant majority whip.

It is my understanding that Ryu is a candidate to replace Bob Ferguson on the King County Council.

The University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies has a Center of Korean Studies. One year ago it was one of six universities in the world to receive a $1 million grant from the Academy of Korean Studies. The library began a Korean collection as a result of World War II and the donation of the books to educate soldiers for Korean service. It is now the second largest in the United States. The Korean language program is part of one of the best Asian language programs in the U.S.

This is particularly close to my heart, as my father was a professor of Korean at the UW from 1964 to 1989, having come there from Yonsei in Seoul, and remained associated with the program after his retirement until his death in 2000. The Jackson School program is indeed strong, but it has suffered from a lack of funding. See http://dailyuw.com/archive/2004/03/01/imported/donations-legislature-boost-korean-program and http://dailyuw.com/archive/2003/04/08/imported/professor-denied-tenure. As for the language program, I'm not sure if there has been a tenured professor of Korean language since my father left; at any rate, they are currently offering only the minor and BA in Korean; no MAs or PhDs. With such a vital community here now, this lack of funding is a shame. I would love to see the Korean programs restored to the strength they had when I (half-Korean, half Jewish) was a curiosity and hardly anyone could find the country on a map.

~ Benjamin Donguk Lukoff

Posted Fri, Nov 23, 4:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Fact: Bill Gates and convicted felon/sidekick Jack Abramoff, $influenced$ Congress to pass Microsoft-friendly H-1b visa law that legalizes employment discrimination against American citizens.

Thanks to Gates and Abramoff, H-1b visa law has loopholes larger than Windows 8 bugs. Under the existing law, it is 100% legal for companies to recruit offshore for US jobs that currently occupied and being performed by highly skilled Americans and green card holders - then force these US employees to train their foreign replacement before they are fired.

The only reason Microsoft can’t find American talent – they don’t want to.
And, since they bought the H-1b law, they are not legally required to ever consider Americans.

If they have a labor shortage, why would they lay off 5000 Americans, and hire 5000+ foreign replacements ? Why won't they consider calling back the Americans they laid off before seeking foreign citizens? Why do they continue to shed 10% of their workforce through their discriminatory barbarian stack ranking program?

Make no mistake, Microsoft's strategy has nothing to do with a mythical labor shortage and everything to do with corporate greed and labor arbitrage.

Jobs4US

Posted Sat, Nov 24, 2:15 a.m. Inappropriate

We need a moratorium on immigration. Having a population that is 25% immigrants is not good.

jhande

Posted Thu, Nov 29, 7:46 p.m. Inappropriate

When has it ever been less in this country? My grandparents were from Scotland, Norway and Sweden, and Ireland.

Posted Sat, Nov 24, 6:03 p.m. Inappropriate

@ jhande. Being an immigrant and foreign born are not necessarily the same thing. I am foreign born but I have been an American citizen my entire 57-year life. So, does that make me part of your xenophobic problem? There are many people like me who live on the West Coast. By the way, on what bit of research do you base this 25% threshold?

Posted Mon, Nov 26, 3 p.m. Inappropriate

There is nothing "xenophobic" about the United States controlling the growth of it's population. Most of the growth in United States population in recent decades is due to immigration. This has diminished the standard of living for United States citizens. There is nothing to indicate that this immigration has benefitted United States Citizens; at the same time employment opportunities are outsourced, a massive amount of immigrants are insourced. This has harmed the "pursuit of happiness" of United States Citizens.

That is who I care about, and that is who the United States Government at all level is supposed to care about, and work for.

So, we end up with the same type of dishonesty always on display in discussions of immigration; accusations of xenophobia. I am suprised you didn't pull out "racism".

So are you United States Citizen phobic? Why are United States Citizens, and the concept of United States Citizenship, such a problem for you.

The 25% figure for this area comes from the article. You know, the article, which we all supposedly read before commenting?

25% of the population being immigrants is not good for the United States. Most population increase being immigrants is not good for the United States. A moratorium on all immigration would give time to research, and to come up with an immigration plan that would be good for the United States. This could be an immigration plan based upon study, and data, and not the prejudice of immigration advocates.

So, jorge, is it possible for you to be anything other than a kneejerk jerk?

jhande

Posted Sun, Nov 25, 6:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Sad to see the comment thread turn into an argument about immigration. At any rate, according to http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0029/twps0029.html, 25% is far above reality. Even the peak, in 1890, was at least 10% below that.

Posted Mon, Nov 26, 3:14 p.m. Inappropriate

The article states Seattle has a 25% immigrant population. Does anyone read the article? It says 30% for Bellevue. This is not good for Citizens. Wages decline, living expenses go up, taxes go up, and employment opportunity goes down. The excessive immigration damages the lives of United States citizens.

Also, there is no argument about immigration, because it is impossible to discuss immigration without the discussion devolving to accusations of racism, or "fear of the other" (xenophobia).

A data driven study of the effects on the Citizenry of the current immigration is not done. The effects on the Citizenry of the population increase caused by immigration is not done.

No real discussion of immigration ever happens. You end up with citizens taking already framed sides. One framed side is "you are xenophobic, you just don't like brown people (or more truthfully, "foreigners are better than United States Citizens, and foreigners are more deserving of a good life than United States Citizens, I hate United States Citizens)", the other side is usually people "who don't like brown people (they will never say it)".

There is never a side that wants a scrutiny of the effects on the Citizenry of immigration. The United States has allowed enough unrestricted immigration.

jhande

Posted Mon, Nov 26, 5:21 p.m. Inappropriate

What is needed is an Environmental Impact Statement for immigration, and an Economic Impact Statement for immigration.

jhande

Posted Mon, Nov 26, 4:58 a.m. Inappropriate

So given your close ties to the Korean Community, how do they feel about following the law and playing by the rules to make a new life in America, only to find the Government playing political favorites with certain immigrant groups? I am sorry the discussion of illegal immigration turns to an "argument" in your mind, but not having the discussion doesn't make the issue go away.

Cameron

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