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Korean Middle Class Lives by Manual Labor in the U.S.

Posted April. 26, 2005 23:30,   


The uncertainty about the future and desire to secure better education for their children have driven many Koreans with relatively higher education to move to farming towns in the U.S., and many of them are earning their living by manual labor, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of Atlanta, GA on April 24. The following is a summary of the article.

Kim Jae-sul (42) ran his own private educational institution for Math, Science, and Language In Busan. He used to go to tennis or drive to the suburbs on weekends. Kim paid $ 10,000 (or 10 million won) to an immigration broker and came to Georgia, along with his family, including two teenage daughters.

Kim works in a chicken farm located in Claxton, a small city in southeast Georgia. This eye-glassed man grabbed a carving knife instead of a pen with his skinny hand. Wearing working clothes, boots, and gloves, he earns $7 an hour, chopping off chicken wings.

“Working in the chicken farm is hard, but this is all for the better education for my children and a better life,” he said.

Wu Chan-do (42) was working in the sales and marketing department in the Korean branch of Johnson & Johnson. After being laid off in 2000, he opened a restaurant. Wu paid $10,000 to an immigration agency in 2002 and moved to Georgia a while ago. He is now learning to repair air conditioners while his wife works for a chicken farm.

“Many Korean workers believe there is no future for them. Getting a good job in Korea is extremely difficult,” he explained of the reason for immigrating to the U.S.

Korean immigrants issued a temporary immigration visa can receive a green card within six weeks of their arrival in Atlanta. They can apply for citizenship five years later.

Most Korean immigrants were bankers, teachers, and company executives back home. They move to the U.S. with a fortune of $200,000 (or roughly 200 million won) on average.

Statesboro, Georgia is now like a settlement town of Korean immigrants. Langston Chapel Elementary School with 700 students is expecting the number of Korean student to rise to 110 by late this year. It is also estimated that 300 Korean students will enroll in the schools of Bulloch County.

Meanwhile, the journal reported consequences of the surge of Korean immigrants, such as budget to expand English education programs for foreigners and unwelcoming gaze by Hispanic immigrants who are worried about losing their jobs to the newcomers.