Korean immigrants, arriving in the United States in the early 20th century, were in conditions similar to that of other non-white immigrants. They encountered discrimination: not brutal and cruel, but still unpleasant. Paik family, who fled from Korea to the United States in the years of the Japanese occupation of Korea, had rich and different experiences in a new place of residence. All this experience highly influenced Mary Paik, who had written autobiographical stories about it.
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In Hawaii, where the Paik’s journey began, they have found many other people of Korean nationality: all they worked in similar conditions, being recruited to work on Hawaii sugar plantation. Mary Pike wrote that “life in Hawaii was not much different from Korea because all the people I came in contact with were Orientals” (Dublin 175). Still, their life was poor; after a year of hard work, Pike’s father managed to move to San Francisco.
After relocation to California, the Paik family often met other immigrants from different places; most were Chinese and Mexican. They met with discrimination right after arrival in San Francisco: a group of young men started to bully them (Dublin 176–177). Non-white immigrants were obligated to live outside the towns. After the settlement, Paik’s father borrowed money from Chinese immigrants, and they helped him to get started in a new place. (Dublin 179). When young Mary Paik went to a slaughterhouse to get wastes from animal butchering for food, she encountered Mexican children who came for the same purpose (Dublin 180). Mexican, in general, were friendly to Asian people: they sympathized with them and disapproved of discrimination toward them (Dublin 194–95). Some white people disapproved of it as well and helped immigrants: Mary Paik describes a man who helped her buy tickets when she could not afford them (Dublin 197–98). Thus, different groups and ethnicities of immigrants were in similar conditions of poverty and segregation, and they tended to help each other.
As one can conclude, it was a different experience for the Paik family in the United States: sometimes unpleasant, but still enthralling. They met people of various nationalities, cultures, and attitudes and established connections with them; some of them became their friends. The relationships between different immigrant groups were usually warm: Chinese, Korean, Mexican people, while having different backgrounds, tended to help each other, as they all were in similar conditions.
Dublin, Thomas. “The Childhood of Mary Paik, 1905–1917.” Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America, 1773–2000, Second Edition, New and Revised, University of Illinois Press, 2014, pp. 173–202.