KakaoTalk and Facebook

Korean American Youth Constructing Hybrid Identities

by Jiwoo Park (Author) Dafna Lemish (Author)
©2019 Monographs XXII, 176 Pages
Series: Mediated Youth, Volume 33


KakaoTalk and Facebook: Korean American Youth Constructing Hybrid Identities explores the role smartphones play in the lives of Korean American youth as they explore their identities and navigate between fitting into their host society and their Korean heritage. Employing multiple methodologies, this book gives voice to the youth’s personal experiences, identity struggles, and creative digital media practices. While similar in many aspects to other American youth, they also differ greatly in the central roles that their smartphones’ use plays in maintaining their mastery of the Korean language, connecting to Korean pop culture, and cultivating their social networks with other co-ethnic peers and homeland relatives and friends. The results of this study challenge traditional assumptions about assimilation of second generation immigrants into a host society and suggest that digital technologies facilitate the process of segmented assimilation, according to which ethnic identities continue to play a central role in the identity of children of immigrants. KakaoTalk and Facebook will be of great interest to scholars and educators of media and youth and those exploring how digital media have changed the nature of immigration processes in dramatic ways.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Book Outline
  • References
  • Chapter 1. Immigration and Identity Formation
  • Immigration and Assimilation in the U.S.
  • Classical Assimilation Theory
  • Segmented Assimilation Theory
  • Identity Formation
  • Phinney’s Model of Ethnic Identity Development
  • The Digital Diaspora and Digital Media Practice
  • Young Immigrants and Digital Media Practices
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Studying Korean American Youth
  • Being Korean American
  • Confucianism in the Korean American Family
  • The Korean Wave: Hallyu
  • The Study
  • References
  • Chapter 3. Digital Practices of Korean American Youth
  • Digital Media Technology and Everyday Life
  • Photo-sharing Practice Using Smartphones
  • Adoption of KakaoTalk
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 4. Digital Media and the Construction of Korean Identity
  • Measuring Ethnic Identity
  • SNSs as Platforms for Socialization and Identity Performance
  • Accessing Cultural Content Using SNSs
  • SNSs as Ways of Maintaining Family Ties With Korea
  • References
  • Chapter 5. Navigating Korean and American Identities
  • Ethnic Identity Development Among First-and-a-Half Generation Interviewees
  • Ethnic Identity Development Among Second Generation Interviewees
  • References
  • Chapter 6. Digital Media Bilingualism
  • Bilingualism in the Interviews
  • Bilingualism as Captured in Survey Data
  • References
  • Conclusion: The Contribution of Digital Media to Segmented Assimilation Theory
  • The Nature of the Digital Media Practices
  • Exploring and Committing to Ethnic Identity via Digital Media Devices
  • First-and-a-Half and Second Generation Commitment to Ethnic Identity
  • Korean American Youth and Segmented Assimilation
  • Comparing First Generation Korean American Adults With Youth
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix A: Interview Protocol
  • Biographical Information: Who Are the Interviewees?
  • Photo-Elicitation Interview Questions
  • Digital Media Uses/Usage Questions
  • Identity: How Do They Identify Themselves and How Are They Identified by Others?
  • Appendix B: Survey Questionnaire
  • Part I: Digital Media Landscape
  • Part II: Ethnic Identity Questions (MEIM-R)
  • Part III: Demographics
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


Figure 3.1. My Smartphone.

Figure 3.2. My Laptop.

Figure 3.3. Chilling With Friends.

Figure 3.4. Boba Tea for the First Time.

Figure 3.5. Frostbites.

Figure 3.6. My Favorite Bubble Tea.

Figure 3.7. KakaoTalking With Friend Group in Korea.

Figure 3.8. KakaoTalking With My Father.

Figure 4.1. Having SNSs Available on My Smartphone.

Figure 4.2. White Christmas Day.

Figure 4.3. My Cash Gift Suhl-Nahl.

Figure 4.4. My Bi-cultural Social Circle.

Figure 4.5. My First Local Co-ethnic Friend.

Figure 4.6. Korean Candies.

Figure 4.7. My Family at the Award Ceremony.

Figure 4.8. Chatting Through Facebook’s Webcam.

Figure 5.1. The Red Fish.

Figure 5.2. Map of Korea.

Figure 5.3. Potbingsoo, a Korean Popular Dessert.

Figure 5.4. My Pencil Cases Made in Korea. ← ix | x →

Figure 5.5. My Non-Korean Friends at School.

Figure 5.6. With My Best Friend.

Figure 5.7. Senior Banquet.

Figure 5.8. My Play at the Soccer Field.

Figure 5.9. Korean Flag.

Figure 6.1. A Mixture of English and Korean Languages With My Korean American Friend.

Figure 6.2. Texting Only in English With My American Friend.

Figure 6.3. Both American and Korean Songs on My iPod.

Figure 6.4. Psy.

Figure 6.5. My Korean-English Bible.

Figure 6.6. A Hardworking Korean American.

Figure 6.7. My Precious Bible.

| xi →


Table 3.1. A Variety of Technologies Used by Participants.

Table 3.2. Internet Usage Frequency on Digital Devices.

Table 3.3. Calling vs. Texting.

Table 3.4. KakaoTalk.

Table 4.1. The Most Commonly Reported Ethnic Groups.

Table 4.2. Topics Explored on the Internet.

Table 4.3. Frequency of Watching Korean Drama/Movies.

Table 4.4. Frequency of Watching Korean TV Variety Shows.

Table 4.5. Types of Social Media.

Table 6.1. Usage of Korean Language Through Texting.

Table 6.2. Surfing the Internet.

Table 6.3. Improving Korean Language by Watching Korean TV Programs.

| xiii →


This is a study on the lived experience of coming of age with a hybrid ethnic identity in the U.S. While we focus on the case study of Korean American youths, we believe it is exemplary of the larger phenomenon of immigration in the age of digital technology. While immigration just 100 years ago meant probably never seeing your family and friends again, and 50 years ago meant holding a rare and expensive phone call, today immigration entails daily video-chatting and the real-time exchanging of messages and photos as a taken-for-granted routine.

We approached this study as immigrants ourselves. While born and brought up in Seoul, Korea, Jiwoo studied as an international student in the U.S., away from the familiarity of home, in her early 20s. Dafna moved to the U.S. from Israel in her 50s, already an established scholar. We met at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, where Jiwoo was a Ph.D. student and Dafna was the Dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

Our goal was to conduct this study with great compassion and empathy, since we both know from first-hand experience that digital technology is our lifeline to our roots, our families, our social networks, our mother tongue, and our homeland—all of which carry great emotional weight. When Jiwoo first moved to the U.S., she faced isolation from her family and friends, a language ← xiii | xiv → barrier, and stereotyping/discrimination. She struggled greatly to find her true identity as an international student, an identity which only stands out more when in conflict with mainstream American culture. Today, aided by KakaoTalk social networking application on her smartphone, with which she stays culturally informed and can communicate with the touch of a button with her family and friends in her homeland, she possesses a natural bent for blending two diverse cultures. This new reality has had a unique impact on her character and perspective. When Dafna was a graduate student in the U.S. in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she relied on weekly letters to stay connected with her family and the rare phone call to celebrate major life occasions, such as the birth of her first child. Today, she is constantly exchanging daily experiences in real time on WhatsApp with her family and close friends, and she keeps open internet links to Israeli news and cultural happenings, such as a newly published Hebrew book and a new vegan restaurant that opened in a remote village, which she plans to visit next time she travels back to Israel.


XXII, 176
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXII, 176 pp., 32 color ill., 12 tables

Biographical notes

Jiwoo Park (Author) Dafna Lemish (Author)

Jiwoo Park (PhD, Southern Illinois University) is an assistant professor at the Department of Marketing at Northwood University. Her prior research papers have been presented in national/international conferences, including AAA, ICA, and AEJMC. Her writing has appeared in the International Journal of Advertising, Journal of Children and Media, Journal of Business Ethics, Computers in Human Behavior, and International Communication Gazette. Dafna Lemish (PhD, Ohio State University) is a professor and associate dean at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, the founding editor of the Journal of Children and Media, and a fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA). She is the author and editor of numerous books and articles on children, media, and gender representations.


Title: KakaoTalk and Facebook
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