Date of Degree

6-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Pyong Gap Min

Committee Members

Paul Attewell

Mary Clare Lennon

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health

Keywords

New York-New Jersey Korean Community, Korean Immigrants, Healthcare Behaviors, Co-ethnic Doctors, Hanbang, Medical Tourism

Abstract

This dissertation examines Korean immigrants’ barriers to formal U.S. healthcare, three distinctive types of healthcare behaviors that they exhibit, contributing factors to their medical tourism, and their experiences and evaluations of medical tourism. Analyzing survey data with 507 Korean immigrants and in-depth interviews with 120 Korean immigrants in the New York-New Jersey area, the study finds that more than half of Korean immigrants have barriers to healthcare in the U.S., the two biggest being the language barrier and not having health insurance. The study also finds that there are three distinctive types of healthcare behavior that Korean immigrants employ to deal with their barriers to healthcare utilization: preference for and dependence on co-ethnic doctors in the U.S., the use of Hanbang (traditional Korean medicine) in the U.S., and medical tours to the homeland. Social transnational ties and health insurance status are the most influential contributing factors to Korean immigrants’ decision to take medical tours to the home country. The vast majority of Korean immigrant medical tourists are satisfied with their medical tourism experiences. This dissertation makes both empirical and theoretical contributions to the literature on immigrant healthcare and immigrant transnationalism by focusing on one immigrant group and by connecting medical transnationalism to other types of transnationalism. The findings of this dissertation imply that health programs for the most marginalized group—small business owners and their employees—and better support for bilingual Korean-English translators at hospitals are needed.

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