Revisiting “Black–Korean Conflict” and the “Myth of Special Assistance”: Korean Banks, US Government Agencies, and the Capitalization of Korean Immigrant Small Business in the United States


  • Tamara K. Nopper



A major source of contention fueling “Black–Korean conflict” is the claim put forth by many African Americans that Korean immigrants receive special support from banks and the American government to open their businesses. In response, scholars argue that this claim is a myth, that Koreans are disadvantaged in terms of access to resources from banks and government institutions, and that they must therefore rely on co-ethnic resources. Yet the preoccupation with co-ethnic support has resulted in minimal attention toward the industries of Korean banking and US government small-business development, both of which have grown since the first wave of post-1965 Korean immigrant entrepreneurship. Drawing from interviews with Korean bankers and representatives of resource partners of the Small Business Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency, this article shows how Korean banks and US government agencies promote Korean immigrant small business. Emphasizing the transnational opportunities that Korean banks provide, Korean-focused programs offered by government resource partners, and collaborations between banks and government agencies, this study explores how the typification of Korean immigrants as simultaneously insulated, underserved, and deserving informs institutional efforts to connect with Korean communities. To this end, the article considers how government agencies work to promote both intra-ethnic and interracial networking among Koreans, to facilitate financial literacy, and to diversify Korean banks’ clientele.