A collage of images of Lao- and Korean-American families from the 1970s, with most faces pixelated.
(re)Location is an arts-based research project that explores the immigration and acculturation experiences of Lao and Korean immigrants and refugees living in California. It is a highly personal collaboration for long-time friends Dr. Joyce Yip Green of the Research Institute of the Department of Marital and Family Therapy at Loyola Marymount University and artist Helen H. Kim. Joyce was two years old when her family left Laos as refugees in 1975 while Helen was seven when her family immigrated from South Korea in 1981. The Yips and the Kims both settled in Los Angeles.

(re)Location is made possible through generous funding from California Humanities.

Composite image of two photos from the 1970s, one with a Lao mother and two toddlers, the second with a Korean family with a baby, father, mother, and young daughter
Migration to the United States from South Korea and the region encompassing Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos significantly expanded in the aftermath of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, respectively, due to the Nationality Act of 1965, Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975, and the Refugee Act of 1980. Within Korean American and Lao American communities—distinct yet connected by US foreign relations/policy and its perception of Asian Americans—stories of the aging first generation are often untold due to the trauma and loss that are intertwined with the challenges of political unrest and war, migration, and acculturation.

For the younger generations in the Lao and Korean diasporic communities, the result has been an incomplete understanding of their heritage and a fractured connection to family histories. Additionally, these significant American stories are little known by the broader population.

The purpose of the research is to:

  1. explore the processes of acculturation;
  2. amplify the experiences of the immigrant elder population, including refugees impacted by war;
  3. create intergenerational and intercultural dialogue and understandings for those within the Lao and Korean communities; and
  4. spotlight themes of family legacy and survival in the context of an ever-transforming America.

The research recruits Laos and Koreans who immigrated to the US between 1970 and 1989. The first and current phase of the research targets participants who arrived in the United States as adults (18 and older), while the second phase will focus on 1.5- and second-generation participants who arrived as children. Participants will share their experiences through interviews, personal artifacts, and art responses. The data, after undergoing thematic analysis, will be presented to the academic community as well as to the general public through community events, an online exhibition, and in-person exhibition.

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