Dr. Jiwoo Park: Digital Media Use Among First-and-a-half Generation Korean Immigrants

by Samantha Davis, Brooke van den Oever, & Ximena Sanchez

Dr. Jiwoo Park is an assistant professor in Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Communications. She teaches and conducts research primarily in the realm of digital media. As a group, we were fascinated by her article “Digital Media-Driven Korean Popular Culture Consumption among First-And-A-Half Generation Korean Immigrant Children”. We recently had the opportunity to interview Professor Park via Zoom to learn more about the research process behind this article.

In her study, Park seeks to investigate the relationship between first-and-a-half generation Korean immigrants’ use of digital media to consume Korean popular culture and the development of their ethnic identity. In her pursuit of this information, she opted to use the qualitative research method known as PEI, or photo-elicitation interview. For the PEI, Park requested that each participant bring 10 to 15 photographs that they felt were representative of their digital media consumption; during the interview, they would explain and discuss the photographs. 

Davis: According to the article, the sample size for your study was 12. In the section on limitations and future research, you note that a larger sample size would benefit future research. How large of a sample would be ideal for a study like this?

Park: For the interviews, especially a qualitative interview, 12 is not that small […] because once you do a lot of interviews, you get a lot of transcript from your interview. So it’s actually too much to put in everything and summarize it for a 30-page journal article […] But you have to make sure that all 12 [subjects] are all different. So, you have to understand the target audience. Especially the children’s background, [they] are all really different.

Park noted that this 12-subject study led to further research with greater sample sizes; the article is a small part of the larger research she developed regarding Korean immigrants’ use of digital media, which encompasses more generations.

Davis: You also mentioned that surveys could help contribute to the future of research on this topic. Would the sample size for these surveys be different or similar to the sample size for PEI studies? 

Park: For in-depth interviews, 12 to 31 that I had [for the entire study] was enough to find out. But especially with survey questions, it’s a matter of how much percentage of your target market to cover. So, you have to do a lot of survey questionnaires. So, for example, I made my survey [sample size] about 300. […] But sometimes, survey question is not easy because sometimes some questions, they don’t answer. 

Park explained that many of the survey responses gathered for her study were not usable because subjects did not fill out the general information like their name, age, and demographics, making the data unusable for the study. Thus, her sample size was lowered.

Davis: In the “Limitations and Future Research” section, you mentioned that more of a gender balance would be beneficial to future studies. In this study, which gender was over-represented? 

Park: [Of the 12 subjects], it was more boys than girls, a little bit. For me, it’s more difficult to talk to boys because sometimes boys don’t want to talk. And, some boys are really nice, they are very much friendly, but some really don’t want to talk about it, and I have to [encourage] them to talk more, but their answers are always short. 

Park noted that the gender imbalance could be attributed to her use of snowball sampling, wherein subjects refer the interviewer to other potential subjects. Park did not choose these subjects herself; therefore, she had little control over imbalances in demographics.

Source: Table 1A Interviewees’ Demographics Jiwoo Park (2022) Digital Media-Driven Korean Popular Culture Consumption among First-And-A-Half Generation Korean Immigrant Children, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 51:6, 611-627, DOI: 10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401 (https://doi.org/10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401)

van den Oever: Of the interviewed children, were the friendships they created in America play a role in being exposed and introduced to their Korean culture from back home based on having more friends of different ethnicities or based on having more friends that were Korean?

Park: When visiting California, the subjects had pictures of their friends that were apart of the same ethnic group as them, I believe they were all Korean-American friends, sometimes Asian-American friends. But from Missouri and Southern Illinois, when they showed me their friend group photo, I see a lot of white, black, and other ethnic groups of friends that they have. Because California has a bunch of different ethnic groups, at the same time the Korean community is a lot bigger than any other state. 

Park pointed out that since she met the subject group in church, they would still be surrounded by other Korean-Americans regardless of their outside friend groups, whether they had more mixed ethnicities or if they were more Korean-American/ Asian-American. The California interviewees would typically have more exposure to other Korean-Americans because of how big the Korean community is in this state compared to the Midwest, where the Korean or Asian groups are not as common.

van den Oever: Were there questions asked such as, If their [subjects] parents practiced the same cultural maintenance and ethnic cohesion that influenced how much Korean media they consume? 

Park: Since they [subjects] have their mom’s tablet, and they said they’ve been watching reality shows from Korea a lot, that is one of their time that they want to spend with their parents. Their parents don’t really have to try hard to teach them Korean, but because they watch Korean dramas with their parents together, they naturally absorb how to speak Korean, the language of Korea, they are more interested in consuming more K-Pop culture. So I noticed that, that is the one big change from older generations that have come to the states around 1980/ 1990, is that they didn’t have access to a portable device to connect to the internet, so they had to go to the Korean church to learn Korean, if they had forgotten, or never learned, or their parents would have to bring Korean books to teach them, or take them to Korean language school. 

Park discovered that this younger generation is much more privileged to have lived in both American and Korean cultures than the older generation. They have a lot more access to media consumption through their digital media devices to connect with their culture back home. Whereas the older generation may have struggled more with looking different from other ethnic groups at school and with miscommunication, while the younger generation’s experiences have been found to be more positive than she anticipated. 

van den Oever: Were there any recurring themes in the photos that the kids shot with their phones, did a lot of the kids have anything in common, or were there no guidelines? Was it kind of just free for all?

Park: It was very free for all, just take 10 pictures that you want to show me or something interesting in your life. A lot of them took a picture of Starbucks, because Starbucks is one of the places that their groups of friends go to, and then a boba shop, and then some Korean dessert shops they went to. A lot of them showed me the bible they read every day because they come from the church, and then they even showed me a Korean map. Two of my interviewees showed me the Korean map. 

Park found that it was very interesting to her that the interviewees kept to their Korean ethnic identity, regardless of them coming to America and growing up in American culture,and that they still remembered where they lived. She found a lot of the pictures to be similar, for example, a lot of them circulated around their friend groups or pictures at prom, since at this age range they are more interested in friends. 

Source: Figure 2. My Tablet (Sarah, 15, female, Los Angeles, CA). Jiwoo Park (2022) Digital Media-Driven Korean Popular Culture Consumption among First-And-A-Half Generation Korean Immigrant Children, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 51:6, 611-627, DOI: 10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401 (https://doi.org/10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401)

Sanchez: What made you interested in studying first-and-a-half generation children of Korean immigrants and their ethnic identity? 

Park: I once was an international student, I came to the United States for myself to study Advertising…I was very interested in the Korean immigrants, especially immigrant children, and how they use their mobile devices. Since they have, you know, a lot of access to like Youtube and social media like Facebook. So it got me thinking about how they use their mobile devices and social media, then how they actually learn Korean,  language of Korean. When I see a lot of the Korean immigrants around my area, I realize that they speak really well both Korean and English, they understand really well. So it got me thinking that maybe there’s something that, I don’t know, has been changed.

Park believed that she can extend her research and focus her research on immigrant children since they have social media outlets like Facebook, Netflix, and other streaming apps that allow the children to watch media like Korean dramas. Park found that most children speak the mother language to their parents very well and that most Korean immigrants will not have to teach their children Korean.This is because they have their own digital devices to learn by watching media of their own culture. 

Sanchez: Why did you choose snowball sampling for finding your interviewees?

Park: I started with a church that I live by because Korean immigration and Korean immigrant people, specifically they found their foundation when they came to the states first with a church. Whether they are Christian or not, because the Korean Church provides a lot of things to settle down their new life in the states. So I thought it was a lot easier to contact the, maybe pastor, or people that I know around in the church. I don’t want to choose my interviewee as a sample for myself because maybe I can be more biased. Snowballing is more like, I asked them do you have any other friends that I can interview with. So it was more of a variety than I thought it was.

Park explained how using the snowball method for her sampling helped her meet a lot of people in the church community. This includes other children for her study, their siblings, and the rest of their family. The church Park lived nearby held Korean and English service for children so this factor was important to her study as well. Park felt that it was very nice to meet many of the children she did when using the snowball method. 

Sanchez: Was it difficult to keep in contact with all of the children?

Park: Of course, first of all my interviewees were between the age group of thirteen and eighteen. Which they are more like junior high and high school. So you guys think about your age of thirteen or sixteen/seventeen. You don’t want to talk to any stranger, you don’t want to give your photo to your stranger. Then because they are younger, I have to get a lot of permission from school, from IRB, and I have consent from both children and parents. 

The process of being granted permission from schools and parents took Park quite some time. Once approved, Park would then meet with parents who would sometimes be hesitant because of their worries for the children’s safety of identity and personal information. The last challenge would be to actually keep in contact with the children. Many children prefer to text rather than call, and sometimes forget to reply. So reminders would sometimes be sent out before scheduled meetings with the interviewees. 

Source: Figure 4. Both American and Korean Songs on My iPod (Min Joon, 15, male, Los Angeles, CA). Jiwoo Park (2022) Digital Media-Driven Korean Popular Culture Consumption among First-And-A-Half Generation Korean Immigrant Children, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 51:6, 611-627, DOI: 10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401 (https://doi.org/10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401)

Works Cited 

Jiwoo Park (2022) Digital Media-Driven Korean Popular Culture Consumption among 

First-And-A-Half Generation Korean Immigrant Children, Journal of Intercultural 

Communication Research, 51:6, 611-627, DOI: 10.1080/17475759.2022.2130401 


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