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«Ethnic Media in the Globalising Context: Transnational quest for identity of different generations as portrayed in the Korean-Australian media GIL-SOO ...»

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3.4 A Summary of the Cover Story of Melbourne Story Ms JH Hong used to teach children in a private academy in Korea. She was once happy with her teaching profession, embracing all the beautiful children there. With the flow of time, her teaching passion grew dull. Ms Hong found herself ‘ordering around and demanding’ rather than listening to the children. When she realised that she did not enjoy her teaching job and was not a good teacher anymore she was full of grief. She then applied for a working holiday visa and now lives in Melbourne. In fact, she had spent a winter holiday in Brisbane while she was a first-year university student some years earlier.

She travelled through Sydney and Adelaide before settling in Melbourne. Of all the Australian cities, she loves Melbourne most for its many beautiful historical buildings, kind people and their leisurely life styles.

Upon her arrival in Melbourne, Ms Hong took up a job at a holiday motel in Marysville and spent five months there (Melbeon Ilyo Sinmun 2009, 5). She met some wonderful people there during that period. The whole town was burnt down by the Black Saturday bushfires.

When I first heard of the news that the beautiful community was burnt down, I could not believe it. I hoped that the fire had spared my five-month residence and the nice people I met there. There is no practical help I can provide for them, except praying for them. The big “family” that I stayed with was great and I had great Christmas and New Year’s parties, dancing all night. They are the people who offered me happiness and great memories. I wish I could do something for them. (Melbeon Ilyo Sinmun 2009, 6)

3.5 Originality of News and Information and Focus on Advertisement.

Both magazines seem to report little, if any, news and information created by their own reporters, but instead reproduce that from media around the world. The editor of the Melbourne Sky lists the names of major media companies from Korea, China, Russia, Brazil and Australia and that they have contractual arrangements between Melbourne Sky and those companies. There is a similar arrangement for Melbourne Story. The editors of both magazines also disclaim responsibility for the accuracy of the news, information and the contents of advertisements.

3.6 Discussion and Analytical Interpretation Cover story: Attending international conventions such as World Youth Day has become routine for Korean youth since the 1990s when Korea began to reap the benefits of economic development plans. Both cover models were not satisfied with their prior work and life, escaped from it, and left Korea in search of a meaningful life. That is, their dissatisfaction with Korean life led them to seek their solution in a ‘global’ context rather than within Korea. However, such dissatisfaction was usually not ‘permissible’ in Korean society before the 1990s. Even if a person was dissatisfied with his/her profession s/he would cautiously look for another professional opportunity within Korea rather than internationally. From our viewpoint, it is puzzling that both Ms Lee and Ms Hong did not seem to have concrete and pragmatic goals they wished to achieve in Australia at their times of arrival although it is often understood that learning English as a foreign language in itself is considered invaluable and that Australia is a popular destination for that purpose.

It may also be characteristic of her generation that she did not hesitate to reveal publicly her personal affairs such as her break up with her boyfriend. Although she was not able to attract any public attention by crying aloud in the street, she quickly interpreted the experience as the experience of anonymity in a foreign land that she seems to enjoy greatly, without indication of being aware that she now faces the cold reality of having to survive in a strange land. In fact, this anonymity leads to uncommitted short-term ‘intimate’ relations for many of them and often causes alarm in the Korean community.

Through her ‘awakening experience’ on Swanston Street, Ms Lee learned of a stark difference between Seoul and Melbourne and seemed to have felt liberated from many kinds of social restraints present in Korea. Ms Lee is now remade with new opportunities and identity. She now has a new life goal – being successful, whatever that may mean. Ms Lee’s current life seems completely filled with meaningful activities and she notes that she lives with hope and happiness. Some of the difficulties and troubles she has to endure on an everyday basis seem to be ‘mysteriously put away’ and the readers of the story are not able to speculate much further. It is unclear as to whether the current generation is not well understood or whether such media representation tends to misrepresent or ‘mystify’ their reality. The extent to which Korean diasporic media can make reflective contribution to the formation of Korean identity should be seriously questioned (Thompson 1995).

Perhaps the current generation are truly trans-national and are less than well understood.

Ms Hong also was dissatisfied with her profession in Korea and travelled to Australia as a way to escape the burden. The action was a quest for a meaningful future overseas. Undoubtedly, her time in Melbourne is relaxing enough for her to be reflective and she is refreshingly able to think though what to do and how to achieve her new goals.

She may even pick up life-long skills and lessons in Melbourne.

Yet, it seems fair to point out that the cover models of the magazines are in the journey of ‘escapism’ and ‘utopianism.’ It appears that these short-term visitors still desire and to some extent live in a fantasy – where they still are longing for and willing to experience an exotic Western world, dreamt of throughout their childhood, not a real world, although the lengths of their stay and the levels of exposure to the actual and local reality would influence the level of their fantasy life over time.

The cover models and the readers of the magazines demonstrate their ambivalent or ‘split’ desires whereby they desire an exotic Australian lifestyle as well as maintain their close – both physical and virtual – contact with the ‘Korean’ society, culture and people by reading community magazines, through which they are informed about Korean community services, DVDs, news and foods.

Another original item of Melbourne Story is a male story (page 28) that is similar to the cover story of the female one in terms of why they left and their quest for their future plan. This male story carries black and white photos whereas female cover stories carry colour photos. Whilst predominant news and information have been scooped from elsewhere they are chosen to inspire young people for their future success and also to inform young people of immigration-related policies and news, foreign currency exchange rates in the context of the global financial crisis as affecting overseas students. All four weekly magazines are a useful way for Korean sojourners to stay tuned to major news and events from Korea while they are away from Korea. They are even informed of some Australian and international current affairs. It would be inappropriate to label them as ‘trash magazines.’ They seem to serve useful and specific needs of young Koreans staying temporarily overseas. These magazines are probably the key print Korean media they consume during their stay in Australia and this apparently helps them maintain their Korean identity.

3.7 Political Economy of the Weekly Magazines The primary focus and interest of the two magazines under discussion as well as the other two weekly magazines seems to be advertising. This is closely compatible with Dallas Smythe’s (1977) comment that TV is a ‘free lunch’. Indeed, the weekly magazines are meant to be the sources of advertising revenue, but some pages are filled with entertaining news, sensational information as well as some other useful components such as yellow pages for the Korean community in Melbourne and classified advertisements – flats for rent, flea markets, cars and essential goods for sale. The competition for advertising rights would be severe among the four weekly magazines and one weekly paper especially when there are only about 20,000 to 25,000-strong Korean-ethnic populations in the greater city of Melbourne. Business viability remains a critical issue for the survival of these magazines (Cunningham 2002).

It is worth noting that these magazines provide the newer generation, such as tertiary education students, short-term visitors, working holiday visa holders, with key information to survive in Australia in general. More focus is given to their survival ‘within the Korean community’ and less to the broader Australian society. In this process, this group of people use these magazines as an ‘intra-community’ communication tool through which they begin to form new kind of identity – Korean-Australian-community identity.

This identity may not be closely connected to the mainstream Australian society and culture. This Korean-Australian-community identity is a kind of a ‘Korean-in-Australia identity’ as opposed to Korean-Australian identity. On the other hand, the older generational or settled people use these magazines to stay connected to Korean identity.



4.1 Broad background of business migrants The United States has always been the most popular destination of potential Korean emigrants since the enactment of the 1962 Korean government emigration policy, attracting about 75% of all Korean emigrants (KDI 1979, p.41; Kim 1981). However, Australia has also gained popularity, with a flow of nurses and computer technicians beginning from the early 1980s. Potential business migrants were relatively well-off in Korea and the reasons for emigration were not only economic but also non-economic, such as quality of life and better living and working environment. Following the ever increasing trade revenue of the late 1980s, the Korean government encouraged overseas investment. Apart from their wishes to conduct their business overseas, small entrepreneurs have also become dissatisfied with the continually deteriorating environment, air pollution, traffic jams, and other social problems, which have adversely affected the quality of life in Korea. Better quality of education for children has also been a significant reason to migrate to Australia, saving the children from the so-called ‘university entrance exam hell’ (see Sullivan and Gunasekaran 1989; Han 1996b; 2000;

2003). The major inflow of Korean business migrants to Australia started in 1987.

Of the many reasons for Koreans to emigrate, Jonathan Willoughby-Thomas (cited in Song 1995, p.429), the immigration officer of the Australian High Commission in Seoul, points out that the majority of applicants for emigration were generally tired of their life in Seoul and they wanted to live in a society with the least degree of stress. Some applicants for business migration mentioned to the officer that there were too many obstacles for business activity in Korean society (Han 1996b).

4.2 Summary of the autobiography Mr Sang-Soon Kim, the author of the prize winning autobiography, ‘Beyond the Australian dream’ is a Korean business migrant who arrived in Australia with his family in January 1990. Mr Kim graduated as a maritime engineer from the Korea Maritime University in 1974 and his first voyage was to Newcastle, Australia. The voyage was held up in the port for three months due to a maritime union workers’ strike. It was during that period that he learnt about Australia: Australia abandoned its White Australia policy in 1973; enjoying a high GDP; a great social welfare looking after a person’s life from the cradle to the grave; a vast land with a small population; and abundant natural resources.

Mr Kim recalls that Australia was a heaven on earth in the 1970s compared to the socially and politically unstable South Korean society, and that to walk in downtown Seoul was often to be obstructed by the confrontations between demonstrating students and armed police. He was often unsure as to which of the parties he should be in support of. Overall, he was unhappy about his life in Korea.

I was employed as an engineer for an export transport company for eight years, fighting for life against life-threatening sea waves. Then, I was able to pay off my own apartment. But I suffered from relative deprivation when finding out a public servant friend of mine managed to own a much more valuable apartment than mine. This taught me that one’s diligence does not promise one’s future wealth. … Once my children blamed me for asking them to live frugally when I was simply not able to provide a high quality motor vehicle or pay for expensive extracurricular learning activities. I deliberately blamed the lack of my own ability rather than social structural defects of the Korean society in my conversations to my children.

Mr Kim was often troubled by unnecessary hurdles and formalities which he had to undergo on an everyday basis in Korea. Thus, once in the past, he labelled himself as one of those who could not continue to love their own motherland. His frequent travel to the cities of developed countries led him to decide that he and his family would eventually emigrate overseas. In April 1998, he had already been awaiting an approval for family reunion emigration to the United States for eight years and was exhausted of patience. As soon as he came across an advertisement for business migration to Australia he started to pursue it immediately. Applying for emigration and preparing documents took him eighteen months. Mr Kim then resigned from his job, despite his knowledge that he would be promoted in a few months and that the value of his apartment would increase in a few years. As Mr Kim was preparing the required documents for remitting a large sum of money to an Australian bank he experienced a completely unexpected delay of approval by a public servant in the Korean tax office. One of his friends who had also applied for emigration blamed Mr Kim’s unnegotiable and ‘naïve’ integrity, and told him that a bribe of $50 would have prevented such delay. Although Mr Kim desired to feel hesitant as to whether or not leaving the motherland was the right thing to do, this incident made him put aside all such ambivalence, and he looked forward to his new homeland-to-be.

Finally, I am leaving the motherland that gave me birth, heading to my newly chosen land. I remitted to Australia all the money I had and held the receipt in my hand. I could not fall asleep the last night in the homeland. Although I was leaving for the country long soughtafter, I was worried about how to support my son who had just entered his teens. What means would I have in Australia to support my family and my son’s journey to adulthood? I was weighing up between the two lives, one in Korea and another in Australia, divided by Pacific Ocean, throughout the whole night (Kim 2000).

Mr Kim’s migrant life in Australia has been a series of ongoing trials and errors. He was prepared to do any labouring job to support his livelihood. He applied for a job to sprinkle water in a golf link, but was rejected due to lack of experience. When he was employed for menial work at night, or as a porter, he could not last any longer than three days. His physical health could not sustain such work. Mr Kim came across a young man from his hometown and was persuaded to sign a contract to provide cleaning services to a fourstorey finance office building in the CBD of Sydney, investing $35,000. Mr Kim employed a few workers, but found it difficult to secure reliable personnel. Overseas students or ‘scoundrels’ were unpredictable as to when they might quit. Some would last for a month and then disappear without having given any indication of wishing to resign whilst they get paid during the week. Mr Kim often visited the workers’ residences on a Friday and had drinks or played card games with them as a way to encourage them to remain as diligent workers. Such efforts did not always impact on the workers’ behaviour.

On a number of occasions the workers did not turn at work, in which case the only option was for Mr Kim to carry out the cleaning work himself.

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