Community Life and Education

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Koreans/Young-Sik Yoo

Wherever Koreans migrate, they tend to found haninhoe (Korean community associations), whether or not they intend to settle permanently in the host country. As of 1993, there were seventeen such organizations in Canada. The oldest was founded in Ottawa in 1964 and the most recent in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1991 and in Jasper, Alberta, the following year. Among the largest and most active are those in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Korean community associations generally sponsor cultural activities during such events as Caravan in Toronto, Folklorama in Winnipeg, the Heritage Festival in Edmonton, and the Asian Music Festival in Vancouver. They also hold sports programs in order to encourage fellowship among immigrants and promote the celebration of Korean national holidays, including Independence Day on 15 August. In addition to these local institutions, there is the Federation of Korean Associations in Canada. This organization was established in 1979 and sponsors major events such as Korean Heritage Day on 3 October, the traditional founding day of Korea.

Korean immigrants also tend to congregate in other types of associations in order to share information and support one another in the new country. There are a number of tongchanghoe, or alumni associations, for school and college graduates and hyanguhoe (associations based on regions in the homeland) in Toronto. Other associations or clubs bring together people with common interests. Honourary, or fictive, kinships have emerged as one of the most vital institutions in the immigrant community for the maintenance of its cultural heritage. For example, among graduates of a particular academic institution, an earlier or later graduation date establishes a relationship as an older or younger brother. Senior alumni exercise authority over their juniors, who in turn respect the elders. Classmates and schoolfellows must look after each other when one of them is in need. To act otherwise would be contrary to moral behaviour and the proper order of things. Thus, traditional Asian patterns such as group orientation coexist within a society that emphasizes individualism.

Koreans have generally arrived in Canada with a high level of education. A random survey conducted in 1990 among 858 residents of Korean background in Toronto revealed that 33 percent were high school graduates, 13 percent had two years of college, and 39 percent had university degrees. Most of the immigrants questioned (81 percent) had no experience of Canadian education, but 7.5 percent had attended university, 8.6 percent college, and 2.9 percent high school in this country. Among the respondents to this survey, 81 percent of the males and 68 percent of the females were employed or self-employed; the average individual income was between $30,000 and $45,000. The study also showed that for the majority of Korean immigrants (72 percent), the motivation for emigrating was to ensure better instruction for their children.

Korean-Canadian parents are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their children’s education and put every effort into assuring that they reach the highest level possible. They do not expect them to continue in the family business but instead want them to join the professional workforce. Of all the ethnic groups in Toronto, Koreans have the greatest ratio of students in post-secondary education.