Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Monica Varsanyi

Subject Categories

Demography, Population, and Ecology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Migration Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology of Culture


Family reunification, Korean immigration, post-1965 immigration, individual migration behavior, oral history, immigrant narrative


Family reunification accounts for a majority of entry mechanisms by which current Korean immigrants arrived in the U.S. The peak Korean immigration period from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s saw a dwindling of skill-based immigration and a rapid increase of immigrants who arrived through family preferences as a direct result of the Immigration Act of 1965. Despite there being ample studies and aggregate data on the post-1965 immigrants from Korea, not enough micro-level research has been conducted on the ways in which the family reunification provisions affected individuals, their brothers and sisters, and the inter-family dynamic both prior and post immigration. This lacuna in individualized and inter-personal analyses from the perspective of the immigrants led to a lack of more nuanced understanding of ”individual migration behavior” in family reunification scholarship. The aim of this paper is to bridge this gap by assessing legal, material and emotional processes during the pre-departure (preparation) period and different family cohorts that emerged during the post-arrival (adjustment) period. The examination of the effects and affects of immigration policies also shed light on the intersection of law and personal choice. By utilizing oral history as main methodology, the narratives that emerged from personal recollections and “embodied knowledge” became the basis for humanizing the immigration multiplier theory. Furthermore, the immigration genealogy of one extended family and the new family dynamic that was born out of their chain migration provided novel ways to explore some of the conventional myths surrounding the family structure as a wellspring of support and intimacy, and its influence the economic success of Korean immigrants.