Report Says Korean American Philanthropy on the Rise

KAP-cover-impage-228x300 Many readers know that the field of Asian American philanthropy is sparsely dotted with research here and there. Good research takes time, money, effort, and a good team. As most practitioners know, the biggest barrier to a strong research paper in the area of philanthropy is access to qualified donors that are willing to share their philanthropic experiences and stories.

Last summer, all these pieces fell in place and I was able to lead the efforts of this new report. I am thrilled with this report because it is the first of its kind – we have never had a report that was based on the research of various generations of Korean American philanthropists.

Give2Asia’s new report, “Korean American Philanthropy: Traditions, Trends, and Potential,” shares encouraging findings and calls for future research on the subject of Korean American philanthropy. The report looks at the immigration patterns and how it affects the accumulation of wealth for Korean Americans. We then provided some cultural and traditional context to philanthropy in the Korean culture. Finally, we tried to categorize the different giving characteristics and motivations of wealthy Korean American philanthropists.


* Korean Americans’ potential for mainstream (i.e. institutional) philanthropy is growing as the Korean American diaspora includes more upwardly mobile American-born members and accumulates wealth. American-born Korean Americans, in addition to being more affluent than Korean immigrants, are also more likely to prefer an institutional model of philanthropy.

* Korean Americans, particularly immigrants, possess various ‘indigenous’ traditions of philanthropy. These include practices of informal giving to extended family and other close relations, such as friends or fellow church members; and church-based giving and volunteering, which are social norms among the 70-80 percent of Korean Americans who identify as Christian. Though the popularity of western-style philanthropy is growing throughout the diaspora, a good deal of giving, particularly among immigrants, takes these forms.

* Personal relationships/connections (or gwangye, the Korean equivalent of the Chinese concept of guanxi) are important to Korean Americans and often become the basis of why they direct their giving to particular people or organizations. Korean American donors tend to be most supportive of organizations to which a close relation is a donor, or otherwise affiliated, and they often hear about the organizations they support through word-of-mouth in their social networks.

* Korean American donors’ interests and approaches to philanthropy are truly diverse, but a few broadly defined fields of interest attract greater attention. These include education and research, North Korean issues (famine, human rights abuses, and refugees), and community development for Korean Americans.

Download the Give2Asia-2011KoreanAmerican-Report

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