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KakaoTalk and Facebook

Korean American Youth Constructing Hybrid Identities


Jiwoo Park and Dafna Lemish

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.

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Chapter 5. Navigating Korean and American Identities


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We turn now to the discussion of the third research question of this study: how does digital media consumption affect this young population’s assimilation into mainstream American society? The use of digital media to negotiate between two cultures and two sets of identities, what previous researchers defined as an “inward-outward” relationship, is at the core of the discussion in this chapter. Issues related to maintaining proficiency in both Korean and English languages is at the heart of this challenge, both very much in line with previous immigration studies yet shaped differently due to the availability of digital media. Consuming and enjoying K-pop (i.e., Korean pop culture) in addition to mainstream western pop is another manifestation of this ability to reside within two locales at the same time.

The children interviewed in this study occupy two different places along the spectrum of personal immigration status as previously defined in the literature section: first-and-a-half generation and second generation Korean American children. On one hand, first-and-a-half generation Korean American children are of particular interest in this study because they have spent at least some of their formative years in both Korea and the U.S., long enough to know both cultures. Although they share similar characteristics with their second generation counterparts, who were born to immigrant parents in the U.S., they brought with them a diverse blend of linguistic, cultural, and social ← 95 | 96 → beliefs and practices when they...

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