The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


This paper examines the historical conditions within which Korean Americans became a “model minority,” linking transnational Korean history to the diasporic formations around the model minority stereotypes. It advances that Korean Americans’ conceptualization of their economic success borrows heavily from the narrative of Korea’s postwar economic development, which itself resulted from the nation’s desire to overcome the past of Japanese colonialism. For instance, the Korean American small business owners interviewed in Sai-I-Gu, a documentary about the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, emphasize the values of hard work, thrift, and sacrifice when telling their immigrant stories, echoing media representations of Korea’s postwar economic success. As a result of these resonances, however, Korean American self-representation has become profoundly implicated in the mechanisms of U.S. capitalism, often to the harm of those minority groups who are not as easily co-opted by U.S. capitalist society.