“Knocking on the door to integration”: Korean immigrants’ stories of seeking membership in Aotearoa New Zealand society

Hagyun Kim


INTRODUCTION: While citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand are granted full participation regardless of racial and cultural background, Asian immigrants appear exempt from the benefits of inclusion. For many, immigration is a stress-inducing journey with resultant socio-economic marginalisation adversely impacting on their participation in society.

METHODS: Theoretically underpinned by symbolic interactionism, this Straussian-grounded theoretical study explored how nine South Koreans re-constructed life after immigration. Semi- structured interviews were analysed using open, axial and selective coding.

FINDINGS: To re-establish their lives, participants gradually “knock on the door to integration” while retaining a sense of safety in their ethnic community. This process continues until they find a place where they are recognised as a member of society. In this sense, “seeking membership” is what participants try to achieve in the host society.

CONCLUSION: If we want to be at the forefront of efforts to address ethnic minority groups’ life-challenges, social work practice must include specific competencies in assisting Asian immigrants, helping them to master their new surroundings and endorse their equal membership in society.


Korean immigrants; membership; participation; social interaction; Straussian- grounded theory; symbolic interactionism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol33iss1id821


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