Ethnic identity and transnational media: The relationship between second-generation Korean American adolescent ethnic identity and transnational Korean film

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Ethnic identity, Transnational media, Korean-American, Second-generation, Film, Asian-American

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


This dissertation answers three key questions about the relationship between second-generation Korean American adolescents and transnational Korean media. The first major finding shows how second-generation Korean American adolescents use knowledge of transnational Korean mass entertainment as a cultural marker of "Koreanness." Another key finding is that second-generation Korean American adolescents understand the films in ways that are consistent with their ethnic identity formation and with Korean American boys' gendered views of Korean culture and media. Finally, second-generation Korean American adolescent participants perceive effects of watching the films provided differently based on ethnic identity formation.

In analyzing the research, some non-media findings became evident, as well. The dissertation helps fill gaps in non-media research on Asian American ethnic identity. First, exposure to ethnic resources does not directly shape ethnic identity formation. Access and use of ethnic resources affect ethnic identity formation only if those behaviors are purposefully chosen. Also, dominant White culture shapes individuals' beliefs in all stages of ethnic identity formation, specifically around a neoliberal view that race does not matter and, therefore, any choice based on race is racist, such as attending an ethnic church or intentionally choosing co-ethnic friends. Because of this widely held ideology, finding community and developing resistance through co-ethnic friends carries with it the price of believing oneself to be racist.

Therefore, dissertation is a first step in filling the large hole in media research on the use of media by second-generation Asian Americans and on the sparcity of literature on transnational media use by diasporic communities, particularly by second and third generation immigrants. It also adds to identity research with its discovery of different aspects of Asian American ethnic identity formation.


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