Korean Organizations in Queens
by Kyeyoung Park

This article will provide some background on different Korean organizations in Queens In order to address problems and participate actively in their local clubs, Koreans have developed many religious, civic, and occupational organizations. In addition, there are many Korean high school and college alumni groups, veterans' associations, and sports and cultural clubs.


History

Before the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act which allowed for 20,000 Koreans to immigrate to the United States each year, there were few Korean organizations in New York City. The great influx of Koreans to New York during the 1970s saw a rise in the number of Koreans employed in businesses such as green grocers, fish markets , and dry cleaners, and resulted in the founding of occupational associations. The Korean businessperson often belonged to more than one group--he could be a member of a city-wide organization based on occupation, and also be involved in a local group that dealt with neighborhood issues and included people from all backgrounds. Later other organizations emerged to provide services to senior citizens, women, and youth.

In the 1960s, Koreans started to form residential communities in Flushing, Elmhurst, and Bayside, Queens. A number of visiting Korean businessmen who participated in the 1964 World's Fair decided to remain in Flushing. Korean nurses began settling around Elmhurst City Hospital during the mid-1970s, resulting in two large apartment buildings which now hour many Korean families. As the Queens Korean population grew, so did the number of Korean organizations.

The following organizations are only a small sampling of the Korean groups that exist in Queens, since many have similar services and programs. From time to time Korean organizations work cooperatively around various issues and events, such as the annual Queens Festival held in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park.


Religious Organizations

Religion plays a significant role in the lives of Koreans churches provide community services and create an ethnic forum for socializing and networking. According to 1988 figures, there were 350 Korean Protestant churches in the New York metropolitan area. Korean Christians, most who are Protestant, account for 65% of the Korean population in the United States. On Sundays it is typical for church members to attend early morning service and return home late after spending the entire day participating in meetings and programs. Examples of Korean Christian organizations are the Korean American Christian Youth Council of New York and the Council of Korean Churches of Greater New York.


Civic Organizations

Korean American Association of Flushing was formed in 1980 to create a network among business owners. It now focuses on Flushing community affairs. KAAF's activities include lectures on credit unions and income tax, and working to establish relationships with the Flushing Chinese community. Past projects include participation in voter registration drives, school board elections, and cultural festivals.


Korean American Association of Middle Queens was founded in 1985 and serves as a local channel through which Koreans and city agencies can communicate with one another. They have met with Community Board 4, the 110th police precinct, and Your Block Association. Six years ago KAAMQ participated in discussions with the police and other agencies concerning charges of police brutality against two Koreans in Elmhurst.


Business and Occupational Associations

Korean American Small Business Service Center does advocacy work concerning the interests of Korean small businesses. It represents its members to various government agencies, and lobbies for commercial rent stabilization. KASBSC has been active in efforts to resolve interethnic conflicts, such as the African American boycotts against Korean owned stores in Harlem and Brooklyn.

Other business organizations include the Korean Merchants Association of Jamaica and the Korean Merchants Association of Lefrak City.

Most of the occupational associations are located in Manhattan, and they serve a social as well as advocacy role for Korean small businessmen. A few examples are the Korean Produce Retailers Association, the Korean Seafood Association, and the Korean Dry Cleaners Association.


Service Organizations

Korean American Senior Center helps Korean elderly apply for social service benefits. Their hot lunch program serves an average of 135 persons daily. In addition, seniors can participate in recreational activities, English classes, and other educational programs.


Korean Community Services is the oldest service organization in New York whose work includes immigrant rights and social service referrals.


Korean YWCA runs many programs for youth, women, and senior citizens, and provides English-language and other classes. Recently it played an important role in encouraging Korean participation in the 1990 Census.


National Korean American Parents Council is active in mobilizing and empowering parents around educational issues and problems facing their children.


Young Korean American Service and Education Center runs an after-school program, provides English classes and family counseling, and has a library. Noteworthy projects include free legal counseling in conjunction with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, promotion of Korean American culture with its drum and dance troupe Binari, and participation in the movement for unification of Korea.


Other service organizations are Korean Americans are Peace and Justice, Korean American Women's Association, and Asian American Mental Health Services, Korean Unit.


Mass Media

Chosun Daily News, Korea Central Daily News, Korea Times, and Sae Gae Times are Korean-American dailies with circulations that depend more on home delivery than newsstand sales. Korea Times also includes an English-language edition.

Korean cable television programs are important in networking the Korean community. Two cable stations are Daehan Broadcasting Corporation and Korea Channel.

The following directories are available for further information: Korean Business Directory published by Korea Times (718-482-1111) and the Korean Directory published by D. H. Printing & Publishing (212-679- 5454).


Kyeyoung Park is a Visiting Assistant Professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
April, 1991