November 14, 2005
Written by C.N.
The New York Times has an article that describes one of the latest, and apparently increasingly prominent, example of entrepreneurship among Korean immigrants in the U.S. — buying real estate in the Los Angeles metro area:
Yet Mr. Lee, who came to the United States from Seoul, South Korea, 34 years ago at age 17 and trained in internal medicine at Northwestern University Medical School, is relatively little known outside his ethnic and professional circles. A modest, quiet-spoken man, he is no Donald Trump. . . .
Bargain hunting is an art the doctor has practiced since buying his first office building on Wilshire Boulevard in 1995. Los Angeles was under a cloud at the time in the aftermath of riots in 1992, brush fires in 1993 and an earthquake in 1994. Insurance companies were selling half-empty buildings at knockdown prices, seeing no way the economy would revive.
But David Lee knew that a hidden market existed among Korean immigrant entrepreneurs, many of them recent arrivals who had been forced into early retirement in corporate restructurings back home. Lacking a credit rating in America but rich with severance and retirement bonuses, they had cash to pay the rent for office space for businesses to serve the city’s fast-growing Korean population, which is pushing 300,000 today, up from 190,000 in 1990.
Coming to the United States as adults, often nearing middle age and with few English-language skills, these newcomers have become renowned for a hard-charging desire to own businesses. And some see deeper historical roots to the phenomenon. “Koreans are like many people who were poor and colonized for centuries; they want to prove something to themselves and to others,” said Charles Rim, a Korean-born, U.C.L.A.-educated accountant.
As my article on Asian American small business ownership shows, Koreans have the highest rates of entrepreneurship among all Asian ethnic groups. What exactly is it about Koreans that makes them so likely to be entrepreneurs? Do they possess some kind of intrinsic aptitude toward self-employment? Are they more willing than other racial/ethnic groups to take such risks? Do their ethnic community and networks make it easier for them to enter self-employment?
All of the above?
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "New Form of Korean Entrepreneurship" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/11/new-form-of-korean-entrepreneurship/> ().
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