Introduction and Overview


It has been over a hundred years since the first Koreans immigrated to the United States. On January 13, 1903 the first group of Korean American immigrants, 56 men, 21 women and 25 children came to the island of Hawaii to work as immigrant laborers on sugar plantations (Chow 2003).

Korean-Americans are one the fastest growing subgroup populations of Asian-Americans. Since 1975 Koreans have ranked in the top five of immigrants to the U.S., along with immigrants from the Philippines, China, and Vietnam. Over one million U.S. residents (1,406,687), 0.5% of the US population, identified their “race” as Korean alone or in combination in 2005. About 25% were concentrated in the Los Angeles County area and about 16% in the New York region. The number of Korean-Americans is expected to continue to increase.

In 1990 of the 800,000 Korean-Americans residing in the U.S., 4.4 % of were aged 65 and over. Characteristics of the Korean American elders in 1990 included (Young & Gu, 1995):

  • 91% were foreign born;
  • 19% of whom were naturalized;
  • 80% do not speak English well;
  • 53% were linguistically isolated;
  • 42% had less than a high school education;
  • 20% reported incomes under the poverty level;
  • 43% to 48% live alone;
  • 1.4% lived in nursing homes.