I am participating in an anthropological project. The goal is to make an ethnographical film, and I have chosen to make mine about the Korean Community in London. Growing up as a daughter of a South Korean mother and an English father I had always been interested in the cultural differences between the two halves of my families.
I began to find the notion of religion in migrant communities particular interesting after visiting my Korean aunt in North Australia who had emigrated out there a year before. My aunt has been a Christian for most of her adult life so she found comfort in her new church, where she could practice and worship as she had been doing in Korea.
It became apparent to me, however that worship was not the only reason why my aunt went to church or why the people who I’d met at the church attended the weekly service. In a town 150,000 people and only 400 Koreans belonging to the community was an important part of getting-by for most people. It was through networks like the Church that people could organise baby-sitters while they were working, or found translators that could speak on the phone to Electricity and Gas companies for them. The church was more than a space for worship, it was a space to form relationships and friendships and to have a communal lunch each Sunday.
Sitting through the Sunday service with my aunt and her family, I also noticed how Korean churches tend to be formed of different components to churches I have experienced in the UK. For instance the full cooked lunch of Korean food each Sunday afternoon where members of the church community take it in turns to provide food and clean the community hall afterwards. During lunch, the congregation splits into their “home-teams” that are assigned to each new member of the church by the Pastor. Each team has an agenda, such as the Study-group Team, or the Events Team where church duties are shared amongst all team members.
This is not something I or my aunt had experienced in other Korean churches but it seemed to work very well in sharing out the responsibilities of the congregation.
It was interesting to see how well my aunt and her new family were adapting to their new lives in Australia and to hear stories of success and troubles in their work-lives, with the new language and their teenage son’s integration into the Australian education system. This was the inspiration to see London’s Korean migrant-community in a comparable light to the Korean community in Cairns. I wanted to see if the same issues that my aunt was encountering applied in the UK, or if the practice of Christianity in the UK by Korean immigrants is a totally different story.