An Uphill Struggle to Count Korean Immigrants in the Census

The last of a five-part series.

Korean American Census Rally in Queens, NY - Photo: Sooyeon Kim.

Korean American Census Rally in Queens, NY. (Photo: Sooyeon Kim)

New York has the second largest Korean community in the US, exceeded only by Los Angeles. Nearly 80 percent of Korean New Yorkers are foreign-born immigrants.  The 2000 Census counted nearly 91-thousand Koreans in the city, according to the Asian American Federation of New York.

That’s about 10 percent of New York’s Asian population, but it’s only about half  the number of Koreans in New York, according to estimates by the government of South Korea.

“Some immigrants fear that their private information will be shared by other government agencies and disadvantage them later on,”  said Ryan Kim, a partnership specialist from the US Census Bureau.

In the 2010 Census, Korean is one of 6 official languages that the census questionnaire can be completed in. “There are language issues, especially for those whose mother tongue is not English,” said Jakyong Kim,  another partnership specialist at a recent census rally in Queens.  “I really wanted them to have in-language service.  That’s the most important thing, that they can go for a help.”

But, community organizer Kim Dong Chan, who worked in both the 2000 and the current census campaigns, says that while people have the option to fill out the questionnaire in Korean, this fact is not mentioned on the actual census form that was mailed to people’s homes in English and Spanish. “I doubt people are likely to take advantage of it,” he said.

Watch this audio slideshow about the effort to count the Korean American community in Flushing, NY.

Read other articles in this series on the census and Chinese, Russian and Filipino immigrants.

The Feet in Two Worlds project on the Census is made possible thanks to the generous support of the 2010 Census Outreach Initiative Fund at The New York Community Trust and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

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