Arirang: The Korean American Journey

The documentary “Arirang: The Korean American Journey” traces the development of Korean Americans as they left Korea in the late 19th century first in search of new opportunities and later to escape Japanese imperialism. The documentary first starts off discussing Korean immigration to Hawaii due to increased demands for cheap labor and because it was also a way for Koreans to escape the turmoil in their country. In these immigrant communities in Hawaii, the Korean immigrants were able to create self-sufficient communities that protected their interests as well as teaching their children Korean ways and giving them a good education. This part of the documentary was interesting since it discussed the significance of Hawaii in shaping Korean American culture and as being another outlet for Koreans to contribute to the independence movement. Moreover, another interesting item the documentary brought up was that when Korean Americans went to visit Chosen for a baseball game, they were shocked that many Koreans were unable to properly speak Korean because of Japanese language policies on Koreans. This was very interesting since it highlights the degree that the Korean American community was able to preserve their customs and language while it was systematically destroyed in Korea.

In the second half of the documentary, the interesting parts concerned the Korean American contributions during the Second World War and in general. First, it was quite interesting that the United States actually classified Koreans as Japanese subjects and how the Korean American community was able to mobilize and lobby the US to recognize them as their own people. In addition, it was also interesting that the US made stamps commemorating Korea even though they knew little about it as seen by attempts by Soon Hyun’s many attempts to convince his White classmates that Korea existed. In addition, it was also interesting that some Korean Americans even had to courage to fight alongside Japanese-Americans in the same Army unit and later make contributions by working in the occupied US military government in Korea. However, the most interesting thing was the role the Methodist churches had in assisting Korean immigrants, creating an environment for Korean patriots to work like Syngman Rhee, and most of all in preserving Korean culture.

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