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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 6. Digital Media Bilingualism


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The discussion of identity formation and digital media would not be complete without reference to the role of bilingualism in the lives of first-and-a-half and second generation Korean American youths. Surprisingly, what becomes clear in interviews with these teens is their simultaneous mastery of both English and Korean while preserving a cultural anchor in their family’s past. Some of the interviewees in this study claimed that their use of Korean is a particularly powerful vehicle for expressing their most personal thoughts and feelings, and a good majority made it quite clear that their regular use of English does not equate to diminished Korean language abilities.

Bilingualism in the Interviews

Regarding this strong bilingual and bi-cultural orientation, David (17, M, Rural) showed a screenshot that he captured to help describe how he frequently alternates back-and-forth between English and Korean to communicate with different groups of friends. As discussed previously, and as shown in Figure 3.8 (see Chapter Three) David communicates extensively with his parents, who are currently living in Korea, via KakaoTalk, and he does so exclusively in Korean. As a point of departure from his dialogue with his parents, ← 121 | 122 → the screenshot below is taken from actual exchanges between David and his friend, the former being Korean American and the latter being American. (see Figure 6.1)

In the screenshot, his Korean American friend’s screen name is written in Korean, and there is...

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