Min, Pyong Gap 1942-

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MIN, Pyong Gap 1942-


Born February 19, 1942 in Choongnam, Korea; son of Hong Sik Min and Nam Hee Song; married Young Oak Kim, November 30, 2001; children: Jay, Michael, Tony. Ethnicity: "Korean; Asian American." Education: Seoul National University, B.A., 1970; Georgia State University, M.A., 1975, Ph.D. (education), 1979, Ph.D. (sociology), 1983. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Travel.


Home—205-14 50th Ave., Oakland Gardens, NY 11364. Office—Queens College, Department of Sociology, Flushing, NY 11367; fax: (718) 997-2810. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and professor. Georgia State University, instructor and research associate, 1983-86; Queens College, City University of New York, assistant professor, 1987-91, associate professor, 1992-95, Graduate Center faculty, 1993—, professor, 1996—. Korea Herald, Seoul, Korea, general reporter, 1969-70; Dong-book High School, Seoul, English teacher, 1970-72; Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, visiting professor, 1986; Institute for Far Eastern Studies, Kyung Nam University, Seoul, visiting professor, 1995; Seoul National University, Institute of Social Sciences, visiting professor, summer, 1997.


Korean Cultural Education Association (president, 1989-93), American Sociological Association, Korean Global Foundation (board member and award committee chair, 2000—).


National Science Foundation grant, 1986; Professional Staff Congress of City University of New York research award, 1988, 1990, 1992-96, 1998, 2001-03; Korean Research Foundation grant through Queens College, 1989; Ford Foundation diversity grant, 1992, 1998; Korean Foundation fellowship, 1997; Association for Asian American Studies National Book Award in Social Science, 1997, and Asia and Asian America section of the American Sociological Association Outstanding Book Award, 1998, both for Caught in the Middle: Korean Merchants in America's Multiethnic Cities; Korean Association of New York Community Service through Research Award, 1997; Asian Americans for Equality grant, 1998.


Ethnic Business Enterprise: Korean Small Business in Atlanta, Center for Migration Studies (New York, NY), 1988.

Caught in the Middle: Korean Merchants in America's Multiethnic Cities, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1996.

Changes and Conflicts: Korean Immigrant Families in New York, Allyn and Bacon (Boston, MA), 1998.


Asian Americans: Contemporary Trends and Issues, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1995.

(With Rose Kim) Struggle for Ethnic Identity: Narratives by Asian-American Professionals, AltaMira Press (Walnut Creek, CA), 1999.

Mass Migration to the United States: Classical and Contemporary Periods, AltaMira Press (Walnut Creek, CA), 2002.

(With Jung Ha Kim) Religions in Asian America: Building Faith Communities, AltaMira Press (Walnut Creek, CA), 2002.

The Second Generation: Ethnic Identity among Asian Americans, AltaMira Press (Walnut Creek, CA), 2002.

Editorial board member, Journal of American Ethnic History, 1997—, Amerasia Journal, 1997—, Monthly Korea Forum, 1999—, and International Migration Review, 2001—; Development and Society international advisory committee member, 1997—.

Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Ethnic and Racial Studies, International Migration Review, Journal of American Ethnic History, Academy Journal of Korean Studies, Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Forum, Gender and Society, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Amerasia Journal, Journal of Urban Affairs, and Educational Theory.

Contributor to books, including Koreans in North America, edited by Seung Hyong Lee, Kyung Nam Unversity Press (Masan, Korea), 1988; The Present and the Future of the Korean American Community, edited by Tae-Hwan Kwak and Seung Hyong Lee, Kyung Nam University Press, 1990; Origins and Destinies: Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in America, edited by Sylvia Pedraza and Ruben Rumbaut, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1996; Women and Work: Exploring Race, Ethnicity, and Class, edited by Elizabeth Higginbothom and Mary Romero, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1997; Ethnic Families in America: Patterns and Variations, 4th edition, edited by Charles Mindel, Robert Habenstein, and Roosevelt Wright, Jr., Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1998; Korean American Women: From Tradition to Modern Feminism, edited by Young Song and Ailee Moon, Prager (New York, NY), 1998; New Immigrants in New York, edited by Nancy Foner, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2001; and The Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, 2nd edition, edited by James Banks and Cherry Banks, Wiley (New York, NY), 2003.


Encyclopedia of Racism in the United States, for Greenwood Press; Religion and Ethnicity: Indian Hindus and Korean Protestants in New York; The Korean Victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery and the Redress Movement in South Korea.


"Most sociologists write papers based on quantitative data to publish in sociology and other social science journals," Pyong Gap Min told CA. "In the early years of my career, I did the same thing: I usually used survey data for my research on Korean immigrants and published articles in social science journals. But as I grew older I became skeptical of the worth of publishing articles in scholarly journals. Since social science journals are very specialized, only a small number of scholars in a particular field reads articles published there. I realized that to communicate with more lay readers I needed to write books.

"To write a book oriented to lay readers as well as to scholars, I need to use a broad range of data sources, including my participant observation and tape-recorded personal interviews," Min told CA. "My book, Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in New York and Los Angeles, published in 1996, is based on multiple data sources, including survey data, census data, my participant observation, and Korean newspaper articles. Changes and Conflicts: Korean Immigrant Families in New York, published in 1998, is mainly based on my participant observation and tape-recorded personal interviews with Korean immigrants. While Caught in the Middle examined the middleman economic role of Korean immigrants in New York and Los Angeles, Changes and Conflicts focused on the effects of Korean immigrant women's increased economic role in marital conflicts. Both books have been widely read by scholars, college students, and lay readers. They have been able to reach lay readers partly because of the practical significance of research issues examined and partly because of more humanistic data sources."

Caught in the Middle: Korean Merchants in America's Multiethnic Cities focuses on the lives of Korean merchants and retailers in often disadvantaged urban minority areas in New York, Los Angeles, and other large cities. With little opportunity for viable employment, many Korean immigrants have become business owners in poorer, ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Their role as middlemen in commerce has placed them in conflict with the predominantly white suppliers and wholesalers who provide them with goods to sell and with the black, Hispanic, and other minority customers who shop at their stores and sometimes feel taken advantage of and deprived of the possibility of owning such a business themselves. Min's book "refers in essence to a minority that engages in trading activities, distributing merchandise to subordinate groups on behalf of the dominant group," wrote Nazli Kibria in Society. "With solid empirical evidence, Min argues that ethnic solidarity among Korean Americans, which cannot be taken for granted, is promoted by their middleman minority role," Kibria remarked. The central idea of Caught in the Middle, wrote Joanne van der Luen in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, is that "Koreans' role as middlemen has increased the conflicts with African Americans who have, in turn, enhanced their ethnic solidarity as they organize to protect themselves and their businesses." Min's account of the violent and destructive confrontations between Korean shop owners and African-American inner-city residents during riots in Los Angeles and New York "accords well with the buffer role played by middleman groups," van der Luen remarked.

In Changes and Conflicts: Korean Immigrant Families in New York, Min "provides a sensitive account of how migration to the United States has dramatically altered traditional Korean family life," wrote Mia Tuan in International Migration Review. In addition to the hard work required to survive in the United States, "few were likely prepared for the strained marital and parent-child relationships, disrupted gender roles and family patterns, cultural clashes, unrealistic expectations for themselves as well as their children, deferred dreams, status anxiety, and monotonous work lives," Tuan observed. Korean men face an especially difficult adjustment to a society where male dominance and filial piety are no longer commonplace. The book's greatest strength, Tuan wrote, "lies in Min's sobering account of the personal costs of immigration, costs which are entirely dismissed by the model minority stereotype."

"I have two major advantages for writing books focusing on Korean immigrants." Min told CA. "For one thing, as an insider I already know many things about them without formally collecting data. Moreover, my observations of the Korean immigrant community carry more credibility because I am an insider. Many people do not feel comfortable reading a book about their own group written by an outsider.

"While I have the aforementioned advantages for writing books on Korean Americans, scholarly works focusing on one immigrant group are very limited in the market. To reach a broad audience, we need to focus on research issues that are relevant to several different groups. Therefore, I have recently tried to publish books focusing on Asian Americans as a whole.

"It is not easy for me to write a book covering several different Asian groups because I do not have an insider's knowledge about other Asian communities. Moreover, regardless of how well I know other Asian communities, many readers tend to question the validity of observations made about their own ethnic community by a non-ethnic scholar. To solve these problems, I have tried to edit books in which I have arranged several Asian-American contributors to write about their own group with regard to particular research issues while I have written the introductory and theory chapters. Four of the five books I have edited or co-edited focus on Asian Americans and have taken this form."

Struggle for Ethnic Identity: Narratives by Asian-American Professionals, edited by Min, draws together the accounts of fifteen Asian Americans as professionals and as part of the culture of both Asia and America. Min himself is a first-generation Korean American, and his book "is a welcome and valuable resource that brings out the human dimensions of the Asian American experience that are too often obscured by homogenizing stereotypes," wrote Keith Osajima in Journal of American Ethnic History. The essays in the book "detail each contributor's struggles to come to terms with his or her own identity and negotiate with American society a way of being both Asian and American, none of which are completely resolved, and none are formulaic," wrote Allen Bartley in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Among the revelations in the book was that practically none of the 1.5 or second-generation professionals encountered discrimination in their careers, while those contributors who were considered "migrant" experienced discrimination directly and blatantly. In addition, female professionals in the book expressed displeasure with the patriarchal structure of the society they had left, but felt that those same types of patriarchal values continued to hinder them in the United States. Bartley concluded that Struggle for Ethnic Identity is "an excellent book for students, or for others who wish to introduce themselves to the key issues and concepts around migration and ethnic identity—particularly as they impact on recent migrants from both east and south Asia." The book received an honorable mention at the 2000 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book awards.

Min told CA: "I am currently completing a book project that examines how Indian Hindus and Korean Protestants in New York use their religions in radically different ways to preserve their ethnicity. For this project, I have personally interviewed about 180 Indian Hindus and Korean Protestants (immigration and second-generation) in the New York area, closely observed worship services and other socio-cultural activities in a selected Indian Hindu temple and a Korean Protestant church in Queens, and conducted a survey of Indian Hindu and Korean Protestant immigrants in Queens. For Encyclopedia of Racism in the United States, which I am currently editing with Greenwood Press, I have created approximately 550 entries related to racism in the United States and I have invited thirty contributors to write the entries.

"Unlike creative writers, I do not write books based mainly on imagination. As a sociologist, I have to collect data and analyze them before I start writing a book. However, I have also used a lot of insights in selecting topics for research, designing questionnaires, analyzing data, and writing books. In this sense, social science research and writings involve a great deal of creativity. This creativity is the main reason I have chosen the academia and I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative component of conducting research and writing sociological books.

"Moreover, unlike scholars in the humanities, social scientists are supposed to tackle social issues and suggest policy recommendations to solve social problems," Min continued. "I pursued a Ph.D. program in sociology late in my life partly because of my social concern. I have enjoyed the practical side of sociological research and writing as much as the creative side. I have undertaken the racism encyclopedia project mainly to help to combat racism in the United States. I strongly believe that the availability of such an encyclopedia will contribute to more research on racism and thus help to moderate it.

"Finally, the major factor that has inspired me to conduct research and write on Korean/Asian Americans is my sense of mission to describe and interpret their experiences more objectively and more accurately. More than twenty years ago, as a graduate student, I read articles focusing on Korean immigrant businesses written by white American scholars. I thought I could better explain Korean businesses, and this is how I decided to specialize in Korean/Asian Americans. Many Korean/Asian Americans and media have approached me for shedding light on Korean/Asian American communities, which is the most rewarding experience to me in conducting research and writing on Korean/Asian Americans. Many Korean and non-Korean scholars, students, and media have approached me to say they enjoyed reading my publications. This is the most rewarding experience to me in conducting research and writing on Korean/Asian Americans."



American Journal of Sociology, July, 1997, In-Jin Yoon, review of Caught in the Middle: Korean Merchants in America's Multiethnic Cities, pp. 226-227.

Contemporary Sociology, July, 1997, Kwang Chung Kim, review of Caught in the Middle, p. 477.

Ethnic Conflict, October, 1999, Steven Gold, review of Struggle for Ethnic Identity: Narratives by Asian American Professionals, p. 44.

International Migration Review, fall, 1999, Mia Tuan, review of Changes and Conflicts: Korean Immigrant Families in New York, pp. 786-788.

Journal of American Ethnic History, summer, 1997, Nancy Abelmann, review of Caught in the Middle, pp. 98-100; summer, 2000, Keith Osajima, review of Struggle for Ethnic Identity, p. 104.

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, January, 1998, Joanne van der Leun, review of Caught in the Middle, pp. 225-226; January, 2001, Allen Bartley, review of Struggle for Ethnic Identity, p. 175.

Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1997, K. W. Lee, review of Caught in the Middle, pp. 61-62.

Multicultural Review, December, 1999, Suping Lu, review of Struggle for Ethnic Identity, p. 77.

New York Newsday, September 11, 1996, Merle English, review of Caught in the Middle.

Society, September-October, 1998, Nazli Kibria, review of Caught in the Middle, pp. 85-88.

Village Voice, December, 1996, Edward Park, review of Caught in the Middle, pp. 61-62.