As a Korean immigrant myself, I see a lot of differences in mom’s roles in Korea and in the United States. In Korean immigrant society in the United States, it is common to see moms working at nail salons, delis, grocery stores etc.. However, in Korea, many of women are stay-at –home moms, taking care of their children. Because of their sacrifice, they expect more from their children. Hwang, a second generation Korean American, describes her own relationship with her parents as somewhat burdensome. 1 She says many first generation Korean immigrants, including her parents, expect their kids to excel in school and become successful. Ironically enough, they are too involved in their work and sometimes they end up neglecting their kids. Hwang makes an interesting point, which I always have questions about— “If they [parents] are so concerned, why not spend less time at the business and more time guiding and being with their children?” In some cases, the kids become more motivated watching their parents, especially their moms, working so hard. For instance, one of my interviewee said seeing her mom suffer from work helped her live above the influence. The reason that I came to Macaulay was half for myself and half for my mother, who was and still is eager to accomplish the American Dream. However, in other cases, the kids get lost and wander since they do not get much care from their parents.
What makes Korean immigrants so interesting is their fervent passion for success and American Dream. Many Korean immigrants come to the United States hoping that their kids will succeed and become part of the mainstream of American life. Often times, parents, especially moms, make huge sacrifices for their kids. Many Korean moms “re-invent” themselves into full-time working moms. 2 Sadly, I found only a few person who was celebrating Mother’s Day with the true meaning of Mother’s Day — remembering what her mother has done (transcription below). For many, Mother’s Day was just another day for family dinner and gifts.
The major difference in Mother’s Day celebration in the United States and Korea is that Korea has a “Parents’ Day,” which is an integration of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. According to the Korean traditions, kids are supposed to make and put carnations on their parents’ chest. Often times, gifts and cards are expected from the kids. Interestingly, in Korea, there also is a Children’s Day. Children’s Day a national holiday, where everyone gets to rest whereas Parents’ Day is a working holiday— you get a day off on Children’s Day, but not on Parents’ Day.
This is an interview with Susie, who recently became a mom. Her mother has been working at a nail salon for 23 years and now has her own business in Manhasset. In fact, I had this interview at her mother’s salon. Susie along with her two siblings graduated from Stuyvesant High School. Currently, Susie is not working because she has baby. On the other hand, her two siblings followed the tradition path and became immigration lawyers.
This is an overview of my interview with Korean immigrants. As I mentioned above, Korean immigrants celebrate American Mother’s Day but with more Korean food.
Move on to Russian Mother’s Day Celebration
- Hwang, Sharon. (1997, February 25). A Korean American Experience. Korea Times (Monthly English Ed.), p. 20. Retrieved May 17, 2011, from Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW). (Document ID: 493715221). ↩
- Chung, Caroline. (1994, March 18). Traditions In Transition. Asianweek,p. 2. Retrieved May 17, 2011, from Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW). (Document ID: 480632101). ↩