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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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When I was working as a maritime engineer, my bedroom was always cleaned by someone else. As a middle rank manager of a multinational company I had never emptied a rubbish bin. Now I am cleaning and shining objects without knowing who has been using them, worrying in the back of my mind about the possibility that it may be pointed out to me that the job was not done properly.

Mr Kim eventually quit the cleaning work, losing $10,000 out of his investment. He then soon received a call from the Immigration Department and was questioned if he was engaged in a business and why he was applying for a motor repair license. Mr Kim soon got tired of his life in Australia and sought advice from his friends in the U.S. While his document preparation was nearing completion he was visited by one of his esteemed

acquaintances and said:

You are not wise. Isn’t packing once for emigration enough and you are doing it twice? I have done it twice. Every time you pack up it costs $50,000 that will support your family for two years. If you don’t like the U.S., what will be your next destination?

Mr Kim purchased a newsagency in February 1995. Having learned much about Australian society he continued his negotiations to purchase it for two years and was able to slash the price by $70,000. A lesson that he learned from this was that he should not be in haste in Australia. However, running a newsagency brings its own problems such as employees pickpocketting phone cards, bus tickets etc. Mr Kim set aside Saturdays for his health maintenance partly because he needs to stay healthy to cover any unexpected absences of workers. Like any other day, he gets up at 4.30am and runs 20km. He finds it the best way to get ready for the day and recharge his energy without cost.

I find that most other Koreans own cars that are better than my own. The colour of my house roof tarnished a long ago. I do not have a golf stick or fishing rod, but I am not ashamed thereof. I am rather happy and satisfied with my life. People tell me that my business is settled and I should be able to relax thus I should be able to afford an expensive car. But I don’t care much for such matters.

4.3 Analysis Shin Tong-A that published this autobiography is a popular current affairs monthly magazine and is read by world-wide Korean diaspora. Thus this transcultural border crossing story would create new kinds of fantasy of experiencing and living in an exotic Western world. Despite the tiring nature of immigrant life, many readers may choose to regard the story as adventurous and worthwhile going through themselves, which continues to drive more people to pursue the adventure. Cunningham (2002, 272) contends that ‘much diasporic cultural expression is a struggle for survival, identity and assertion.’ This seems to aptly describe the personal short-term and long-term individual diasporic experiences and processes although the nature of their struggles is different. Australia is known as a dream destination for potential Korean emigrants to the West. This autobiographic account vividly describes how a successful professional in Korea develops a dream of a new life in a new land and how he realises the cold reality of migrant life before eventually settling with his newly established identity and gets to appreciate his new self and the surroundings of his new life. This journey is much similar to what many Korean migrants especially as non-English Speaking Background people have experienced (Han 1994a; b; c; 1996a; b; 2000; Lee 2005). As found through another study, media consumption is often a way to overcome or put aside the cold reality of immigrant life or to console their nostalgia. The media consumption includes going to Karaoke, watching video, sticking to Korean media without any language barrier (Han 1994c;

2000). This may be a way to resort to their comfort zone.

Overseas students or short-term stayers like the two cover models are potential employees of Mr Kim’s cleaning business or news agency. The workers’ financial needs are long-term based, but their commitment to the employers is always short-term since such jobs do not offer them much in the way of future prospects. Yet, for Mr Kim, the business requires a large sum of capital and he needs a steady flow of income. This apparently creates a gulf of different expectations from the two broadly different generations.


Above all, it is highly encouraging that there are a number of magazines able to cater to the younger generation of Koreans in addition to the media that serve the conventional Korean immigrants in Australia. The characteristics of Korean-Australian ethnicity are much more diverse these days than they were a couple of decades ago. This is apparent not only with an increase in the Korean-Australian population, but also due to diverse educational and professional and other life opportunities which young Korean-Australians and Korean overseas students enjoy, in part resulting from economic wealth that they have ‘inherited’ from the prospering Korean and Australian economies. The juxtaposition of the two broadly different generations under discussion poses a challenge to the ways in which the Korean diasporic media can respond to a diverse range of needs and expectations.

Although these two different generations seem to have different life goals, there seems to be much in common in terms of their material or aesthetic needs in their lives, their efforts to overcome frustrations of personal life and of the social environment of Korean society. Both established migrants and sojourners are in continued search for their identities and are in their journey of constructing and reconstructing their transnational identities in the context of the globalising world (Han 2000; Mizukami 2007; Han 2008).

Interestingly and importantly, it is worth noting that the cover models of the cover stories are much like Mr Kim’s children’s generation. Some of the Korean youth will turn out to be long-term stayers as migrants. Thus, those young people are integral members of the Korean community or social organisations such as Korean churches, at present as well as in the future. The older generation of Korean migrants in Sydney has launched the process of nurturing the needs of younger generation in terms of their integration into the broader Australian society, construction of Korean-Australian identity and representing the needs of the Korean community to the Australian society: for example, English ministry or symposium specifically for younger generation. Perhaps the media may be able to take much more active roles in this process.

Other ethnic communities in Australia have long produced their own ethnic cultural products such as novels, fictions and films, depicting their migrant lives either in English language or with English subtitles, and have been introduced to the broad Australian media. The Korean community has not reached this stage and this may be partly due to its relatively short migrant history in Australia, but this is also due to a lack of concerted effort to achieve such goals on the part of the leaders of the Korean community. Such efforts would lead to tremendous benefits for the harmony within the Korean community and constructive contribution to the cohesion of the broader Australian society.


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