The first generation is defined as a group of people that was born in one country and migrated to another one at a young age. Moreover, it can also denote children of the children of individuals who were born or who have migrated to another nation. Regarding the residency and nationality of a certain person, the first generation can have two definitions. The first one includes native-born residents of a nation, but their parents were born in another country. The other definition is based on foreign-born residents or citizens; this defines the first generation as people who were born in one country, then migrated and became the residents of that country. The first generation of the Korean Americans appeared during the migration of the Asians into America, which began in early 1900. The Koreans who migrated to the United States worked in sugar plantations in Hawaii. Similar to most Asians, most Koreans have chosen to continue settling in California. Nevertheless, the first generation of the Korean Americans faced different challenges in terms of adapting to new life in America. There is a difference in the manner how Ch’oe approaches the life of first generation of the Korean Americans compared to Chung who focuses his attention on Phillip in the larger part of the discussion. This paper concentrates on the two sources comparing the similarities and differences in their approaches to the life of the first generation of the Korean Americans.

According to Ch’oe’s narration, Ahn Changho also known as An Chang-ho was among the first Koreans who migrated to America. He played a significant role in the Korea’s journey to independence and the lives of the Koreans in America. As a result, he became one of the most renowned historical figures in both Korea and America. Having arrived in America with his wife, they first settled in San Francisco and later moved to California. Ahn Changho’s family consisted of five children, namely Philip, Susan, Philson, Ralph, and Soorah.


These children belonged to the first generation of the Korean Americans. Ahn Changho was a firm believer in education as one of the ways to help Koreans improve their morals. He believed that independence emerges from nationalism and education strengthens self-confidence, and people have to be organized to devise and implement the plan. On the one hand, this Korean man was deeply convinced in the fact that industrialism builds self-sufficiency. Chung, on the other hand, argues that Philip was one of the most famous of his children due to his distinguished career in acting, though he never quite really managed to be regarded as a top celebrity. Philip continued leading the second generation of the Korean Americans after his father, who left America some time later to lead the fight for independence.

Chung employs the early years of life of Phillip and his mother to depict the life of first generation on their arrival to America, while Ch’oe uses the life of the very first immigrants based on Susan’s recollection to describe labor. Chung states that in his childhood as the first-born child, Philip helped his mother do her chores and to earn livelihood. Philip’s mother worked as a cook, a seamstress, and a cleaning lady. With his father who was absent most of the time, his mother was tasked with raising the young family in a not quite familiar nation. At the age of nine, Philip sold newspapers and did other jobs, which did not require the use of skills to make some money for his family.

Philip’s acting career started revealing itself at an early age. He was good at public persuasion and drama, these characteristics he inherited from his father. He would often act in school and church plays where his greatest asset and charismatic voice was demonstrated. He became a close friend to his neighbor Anna, and was spotted by Douglas Fairbacks – a silent screen legend. This happened when he accompanied Anna in one of the set plays. Douglas offered him a minor role in the play “Thief of Baghdad.” However, his path to an acting career was not particularly welcomed by his mother. This was partly because of her beliefs based on the initial culture that considered actors as clowns. Her fellow friends and elders agreed with this notion by labeling actors as clowns. Nevertheless, his father intervened and urged him to be the best (Chung 5). The Asians who migrated to America worked in sugar plantations in Hawaii. These jobs were considered to be low-paid as they required less skilled workers. Ahn Ch’ang-ho worked in the orange groves to support his family, when they first moved to America (Ch’oe 12).

In Chung’s narration, Philip is never quoted referring to his father in a negative way in contrast to Susan in the discussion written by Ch’oe. When Philip’s acting career began to significantly improve, his mother has totally ruined his dreams due to beliefs that they had adopted from their motherland. It was not until later when his father returned “home” and gave him the permission and encouragement to continue acting and succeed in it (Chung 5). Ch’oe asserts that after the return of Ahn Ch’ang-ho to his family in 1925, he later left in 1926 when Ralph was born. This child never saw his father’s face in real life. Pictures which hung on the walls were the only way in which Ralph could connect with his father, so not surprisingly Ralph was quoted to have once said that his father was just a picture on the wall. His relationship, however, became stronger due to his father’s absence.

According to Ch’oe, Susan claims that when she was growing into an adult, she was often told that Ahn Ch’ang-ho was not her father, but the father of the country. Nevertheless, whenever he spent some time with the family, he respected and understood their hopes and wishes. Ahn Ch’ang-ho was a great spouse and he even helped around the house whenever possible. However, Susan – his eldest daughter feels this could not compensate for the time that he was away from the family. In one case when she visited Korea, Susan said that Ahn Ch’ang-ho was not a caring father. Although she had a chance to see him, unlike Ralph who rather knew him by the pictures on the wall, he never became a true father for her.

Chung uses Phillip’s career of an actor to show the challenges that the First generation of Korean Americans faced in America, while Ch’oe uses the effects that according to the Korean culture had the Ahn’s family. During his time at Paramount, Phillip was portrayed more as a Chinese, though he was Korean. Paramount tried to conceal Ahn’s inability to speak Chinese owing to his Korean roots. In the war, the media and studios enjoyed criticizing his father’s engagements in anti-Japanese struggles while underscoring Phillip’s commitment to America’s efforts against Japan due to American citizenship.

Ahn Ch’ang-ho’s wife is depicted as a conservative woman, despite the fact that she had left Korea and migrated to America where she raised her family. She still adhered to the Korean cultural beliefs and as seen earlier, she did not welcome the idea of Philip acting alongside the “Americans” (Chung 5). In addition to this, she did not appreciate the fact that her eldest daughter Susan was married to an Irish man (Ch’oe 13). In 1953, a vast majority of foreign inhabitants of America began to apply for the nationality of America legally via naturalization. However, Ahn Ch’ang-ho’s wife did not make any attempts to acquire the citizenship of America. In fact, on one occasion when she was invited on behalf of her husband to collect his medal, she represented herself using a Korean passport. However, this does not mean that she did not appreciate the American way of life, as she continually urged her children to vote (Ch’oe 15-16). Philip, on the contrary, is firmly rooted in the American way of life, which brought controversy on whether he was even identified with the Koreans. During his visit to Korea for the first time, one of the directors mentioned that despite the fact that Philip had a successful career in Hollywood, the Korean people did not know almost anything about him (Ch’oe 11). Susan urges Koreans living in America to embrace the American society, as it will ease their lives.

In his discussion, Chung does not focus on the gender challenges when the first generation of Korean Americans migrated to America. Ch’oe writes that during the period when Koreans were still migrating to the United States after Ahn Ch’ang-ho, his wife served as a reliable mentor to the new immigrants. Among the challenges that women faced was battering that was common in those days. This was caused by the fact that women were considered to be inferior as compared to men. Ahn Ch’ang-ho’s wife ensured that the transition from life in Korea to life in America was smooth. She also educated these women on how to raise their kids properly and advocated for submissiveness of the wives to their husbands.

Ch’oe writes that when Susan first applied as an officer, her application was rejected. Life in college was not easier as she was discriminated due to her views. Occasionally, she was confused for being a Japanese, Samoan, Chinese, and Inuit. In another case, a student refused to share a room with Susan, because her parents could not approve of it. However, Susan agrees that the fact that Philip was able to adjust himself to the American lifestyle and taught her a few techniques, helped her to fit in the new society. When the Koreans migrated to America, Ahn Ch’ang-ho strived to guarantee that the laborers were treated right. He urged the Koreans to be modest when portraying the capabilities of the Koreans in a foreign nation (Chung 44).

Chung’s and Ch’oe’s discussion is based on the way how Toran is related to their homeland Korea and this is depicted with the help of the following similarities. According to Chung and Ch’oe, Toran’s wish was that his children returned to their homeland and improved the country. However, none of his children fulfilled his dream. Only Philip was close to achieving this dream, but was deterred by the difficulties of re-adjusting to Korea. On one occasion during his visit to Korea, Phillip was watched by secret police with Rhee confiding to him that such problems would not have occurred if his father had been still alive. Ahn avoided working in the Korean industry because of his belief to be unable to speak Korean fluently. His lack of confidence in the Korean language made him seek more roles as a producer rather than an actor in U.S-ROK co-productions.

In conclusion, it is evident that Ahn Ch’ang-ho played a paramount role in the struggle for independence in Korea. At the same time, Ahn Ch’ang-ho is a significant historical figure in the history of the first generation of the Korean-Americans. His struggles and efforts shaped the history of America and Korea in different areas. However, the fact that he was away from his family made his children’s life miserable, which was especially true for Ralph. There are no significant differences between the life and history of Ahn Ch’ang-ho’s family as depicted in both the primary and secondary sources despite different methods and approaches

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