EXPLORATIONS #1922 - Korean Community Near DC

By Onka DekkerThis is Steve Ember.And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Thousands of people from other countries come to the United States to live. Many of the new immigrants settle in cities. Others live in newer communities around cities called suburbs. There are many ethnic communities around large cities. Today we tell about a Korean community south of Washington, DC.

Government officials say there are about one-hundred-fifty thousand Koreans in the suburbs surrounding Washington, DC. Koreans began moving to Annandale, Virginia about twenty years ago. Since then, Korean students have had a strong influence on the schools there.

Korean immigrants say that most Koreans come to the United States for education. They are looking for a good public school system to prepare their children for college and professional work. They believe their children have a better chance to be educated in American schools.Education experts say that public schools in many suburban areas are better than those in cities. One example is Langley High School in McLean, Virginia. Most years, ninety percent of the students who graduate from Langley High School go on to college. This is a very high percentage of students continuing their education. It is a much higher percentage than that of most American high schools. One of six students in that school is either Asian or Asian American. Koreans are the largest Asian group among the students.

Koreans in the United States have their own system to help Korean students. The adults organize private schools that provide extra study help. Koreans call these schools hak-won schools. They provide help for students all year. The hak-won schools also prepare Korean students for national knowledge and ability tests. One of these tests is called the Scholastic Assessment Test or S-A-T. Universities and colleges use the S-A-T results to see if students will be able to do college level work.Joanne Cabry was a guidance counselor for students at Langley High School. She helped students prepare for college. She says sometimes Korean parents have plans for their children that are not possible. She says the parents' plans can cause a lot of tension between Korean parents and children.

For example, Korean parents may have a strong desire for their child to attend one of America's best but very costly private universities. But the student's plans may conflict with his parent's desires. The young person knows that private universities choose only a very few students. He or she would rather attend a public university that chooses more students and is not as costly.Peter Uncles is also a guidance counselor at Langley High School in Annandale. He agrees that there can be tension in some Korean families caused by cultural differences. He says Korean parents restrict their children more than many other parents do.

Mr. Uncles says that Korean students are like any other students socially. He says choosing friends from other ethnic groups is an individual choice. Some students like to talk with everyone and be involved in many activities. Other students are slower to become involved in school activities. They find it difficult to talk with people who are not Korean.

Young Koreans and Korean-Americans can be heard talking in what they jokingly call Konglish. They combine both Korean and English words in one sentence. Young people say it is easy to live in the suburb of Annandale. They say they can speak some Korean and some English and still be understood.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Many Korean families in Annandale, Virginia belong to financial groups. The Korean word for these groups is "gaeh." Families can pay for the education of their children this way. The "gaeh" financial groups have from five to fifteen members. The groups meet every month. Each member pays the same amount at the monthly meeting. One member gets to use all the money. The system continues until every member has had a turn using all the money. Some Korean families use the money to buy a home or to start a business.

The "gaeh" group also gives the members a way to believe in each other's honesty and fairness. They build relationships with other newcomers to the United States. Some Korean families who earn high incomes join a "gaeh" more for social reasons than for financial reasons.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Annandale, Virginia now has many more Korean businesses than it did twenty years ago. Jill Park is a Korean businesswoman. Her family publishes the Korean Directory, a yearly book of telephone numbers for Korean homes and businesses.

Mizz Park says that twenty years ago there were only three-thousand names and one-hundred businesses in the Korean Directory. She says now there are twenty-five-thousand Korean names and more than four-hundred Korean businesses.

Bakeries, bookstores, flower shops, doctors' offices, video stores and food stores are among the many kinds of businesses serving the Korean community.Language skill is a problem for the older Koreans. Not speaking English can prevent them from taking part in American culture. Many older Koreans worked two or three jobs when they came to the United States. They could not take time to go to school. When they had enough money they opened their own businesses. They hung business signs in Korean, the only language they knew. Other ethnic groups complained. English speaking people could not understand the Korean business signs. They wanted the signs to include information in English.

Most Korean businesses have learned to reach out to all the people in the area. The signs in many Korean stores now are in two languages, Korean and English. Some stores also hang signs in Spanish.Yet some people feel that Korean businesses are not making the effort to reach out to all Americans.

Soni Kim is a Korean woman who arrived in Annandale in Nineteen-Seventy-One. Mizz Kim is a writer in both Korean and English. She also works as a translator. Translators help people with knowledge of only one language understand what is being said or written in another language.

Mizz Kim is critical of some Korean businesses. She wants them to work together to involve Koreans in American culture in Annandale. She says that the language difference should not stop the Korean businesses from trying to interest Americans in their goods. She says if you have an open heart you can communicate.Mizz Kim publishes a Korean language newspaper. She asked the owner of a weekly English language newspaper if he would include stories written in Korean.

Douglas Schauss agreed to include her Korean stories in his newspaper, the Annandale News Independent. Now there are always two pages of Korean language news and stories in his newspaper.

Mr. Schauss feels that Korean business owners should not be forming their own business organization, the Korean Chamber of Commerce. He says they should join the traditional Chamber of Commerce. Mizz Kim and Mr. Schauss are allies in trying to get Koreans to become more involved in American culture and organizations.At the same time, other Americans are learning about Korean culture and traditions. Visitors to Annandale can find evidence of new Korean-American traditions. People of other ethnic groups enjoy eating in the more than twenty Korean restaurants in the area. They have learned to like the interesting smells and tastes of Korean food.

Many Koreans in the suburbs south of Washington, D-C have developed strong connections to the area. The president of the Korean American Association says he would not return to South Korea. He remembers his mother and father going for walks in the community park. He says that the Annandale area was his parents' final home. Now, it is his home, too.

This Special English program was written by Onka Dekker. It was produced by Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Efim Drucker. This is Steve Ember.And this is Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.

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