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Exploration of Communicative Social Capital, Civic Engagement and Political Engagement of the Korean Diaspora
Toth, Elizabeth L.
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The purpose of this study was to examine qualitatively how members of the Korean diaspora in the Washington, DC, area make meaning of ethnic community, social capital, and civic and political engagement. More specifically, the study examined how communicative social capital influences civic and political engagement as well as other factors that influence or inhibit civic and political engagement of the Korean diaspora. Previous communication scholarship has under-examined social capital of ethnically diverse publics in relation to these aspects. Literature regarding the diaspora, ethnic identity, social capital, and civic and political engagement contributed to this study. From the literature, four research questions were posed: How do members of the Korean diaspora make meaning of the Korean community? How do members of the Korean diaspora make meaning of social capital and create opportunities for social capital? How do members of the Korean diaspora make meaning of civic and political engagement? and, How does social capital influence civic and political engagement? To best illustrate and describe how members of the Korean diaspora experience the phenomena of the diasporic community, social capital, and civic and political engagement, I chose a qualitative research method, which utilized 42 in-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with members of the Korean diaspora in the Washington, DC, area, guided by an interview protocol. I utilized a grounded theory approach to data analysis. From the data, several themes arouse regarding ethnic community, social capital and civic and political engagement. Results suggested that members of the Korean diaspora made meaning of ethnic community in relation to ethnic identity, and there were varying perceptions of the Korean community, drawbacks as well as reasons to keep the community, which varied depending on the generations. Social capital was found to be plentiful in the churches, but not so much in the community at large, and church capital was not equally available or accessible to all members. Some participants were more concerned about social capital, hoping to contribute or give back to the community rather than receiving the community social capital. Results suggested that weak consciousness and lack of ownership, language and cultural barrier, lack of resources and motivation discourage civic engagement while church activities and parental status encourages civic engagement. In terms of the political engagement, misunderstanding and the operationalization of the term political engagement, lack of strong ownership, misperception on politics across generations, gender, language and cultural barrier as well as the tension between church and politics discouraged members of the Korean diaspora from engaging in political activities. Results also suggested that religious social capital and community social capital have a strong influence on civic and political engagement of the Korean diaspora. The data extend our understanding of ethnic community, communicative social capital and civic and political engagement. Evidence suggests that ethnic community, social capital, and civic and political engagement intersect in the meaning-making of the members of the Korean diaspora and that future research must focus on examining these aspects to better understand communicative social capital to empower ethnic communities and strengthen democracy.