Expert speaks about history of Korean brides in the United States

by rcnewsblog on October 10, 2013

IMG_0715Roanoke College students, faculty and members of the community gathered last week at Roanoke for a Korean history lesson.

Last Thursday, Dr. Wayne Patterson, a professor of history at St. Norbert College, read experts from one of his books about Korean picture brides and the Korean community in the United States.

Patterson has been a member of the St. Norbert faculty since 1977, specializing in the history of East Asia.

He is author or editor of more than a dozen books, including “The Korean Frontier in America: Immigration to Hawaii, 1896-1910” and “The Ilse: First-Generation Korean Immigrants in Hawaii, 1903-1973.”

His discussion addressed the history of Korean picture brides. Between 1909 and 1924, approximately 1,000 Korean brides arrived in the United States, mostly in Hawaii, to marry Korean bachelors who had arrived earlier, between 1903 and 1905.

The women’s arrival served to alleviate the male verse female gender ratio, stabilized the nascent Korean American community, and made it possible for the creation of a second generation. Patterson’s talk focuses on the background of the women, exploring such issues as their reasons for coming, and the difficulties they faced after their arrival in America.

Patterson spoke about the process by which these women came to the United States and their often difficult living conditions after their arrival. Throughout the talk, he read excerpts from his books, “The Ilse: First-Generation Korean Immigrants in Hawaii, 1903-1972” and the sequel “The Korean Frontier in America: Imigration to Hawaii, 1896-1910.”

Images of the Korean brides flashed behind him on a projector.

“I had heard in Korea that Hawaii was a paradise,” he said, quoting a Korean woman who dreamed of prosperity and wealth.

Women were given photographs of younger males or received deceptive images of their prospective husbands, he said. They were embarrassed to tell their families of their poor living conditions. They felt as though their husbands were more like a father figure due to the significant age differences. Women felt tricked by their husbands, while Korean men thought the women were being unappreciative.

“I thought the lecture was very enlightening and showed a relatively unknown perspective of Koreans in America,” said Kyra Sichelstiel ‘15 of Knoxville, Tenn. “I was surprised how deceptive the prospective husbands were and what lengths they went to, to make the picture wives believe they were younger or more attractive.”

Patterson holds two masters degrees, one in History and one in International Relations, both from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in International Relations and has taught at or attended universities in Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

Patterson has been a visiting professor at a number of U.S. universities, including the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

-By Morgan Conroy ’14


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