A LITTLE INTRODUCTION
When I meet a Korean American, whether in my hometown in Seattle or anywhere else in the U.S. or in Korea, one of the first things either of us asks each other is what church we belong to. Korean Americans literally know how small this world is just because of the tight-knit community between Korean American churches in the U.S. Each Korean church in Washington knows each other because of the various activities they participate in including sports tournaments, carnivals, retreats, and other events that being many of the churches together. The Korean churches are even more connected to the rest of the U.S. and Korea because they have brother churches all over the U.S. and Korea. In this way, many Korean Americans in Washington get acquainted with each other and the rest of the Koreans everywhere. If I don’t know a Korean American person, I will be sure to know the person’s family or friends or a friend of a friend through the church the common person attends. I’ve made instant friends at home, school, and even while studying abroad in Korea just by making connections with people through the churches they attend and the people they know through these churches. This kind of interaction I have all the time with Korean Americans allows me to feel a connection instantly. Most of the Koreans I know in the U.S. attend a Korean American church, even if they are not Christian, and are all connected in some way through these churches. The church has become the most important center of the Korean American community, and even non-Christians attend to meet co-ethnics and practice their culture (Kwon et al., 2001). Within immigrant churches members exchange information and advice while maintaining cultural norms (Conzen, 1996). Korean American churches play important roles in developing a community that allows Korean-Americans to survive and assimilate into American society.
The Korean American church community is a phenomenon that plays a huge role in the assimilation and success of Korean immigrants and their future generations in the U.S. It acts not only as a place of worship but a cultural, political, and economic base in the Korean-American communities everywhere. There are over 3,400 Korean American churches in the U.S. that provide counseling, job assistance, and programs for after school activities, learning the Korean language, and helping at-risk youth, senior citizens and newly arrived immigrants. Over 75% of the Korean American community is connected with churches like these. Not only do these churches serve the Koreans in the community, they contribute to the nation. 64 percent of the churches surveyed raised over $1 million for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. One of the churches in LA raised $70,000 for the tsunami efforts. With the Korean American population increasing from 102 people in 1903 to 1.3million in 2000, Korean communities were able to support these immigrants and their future generations by developing a church community.