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Kye ( Gye ), social credit of Korean America

Lending Support to Kyes : Immigrants' Credit Associations Need to Be Encouraged--for Everyone's Financial Health
October 24, 1993. Ivan Light, a professor of sociology at UCLA, is the co-author of "Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982." (Los Angeles: University of California, 1988).

When Jung-Hie Park sought to collect $50,000 owed to his kye , a popular financial institution in the Korean community, he turned to California courts for adjudication. Without examining the merits of his claims, Superior Court Judge Edward M. Ross ruled in September that kyes were an "illegal lottery" whose debts could not be collected in an American court.

Although Ross' decision may be appealed, it highlights the difficulty that American law encounters when attempting to digest foreign saving and credit institutions like the kye . In the language of anthropology, the Korean kye , the Mexican tanda , the Chinese hui , and the Vietnamese ho are examples of the rotating savings and credit association, a popular financial institution of the Third World

Hanmi Bank Uses Ancient Asian Lending Practice to Help Koreans
October 05, 1988. DOUGLAS FRANTZ, Times Staff Writer

Facing an unfamiliar and sometimes unbending banking system in the United States, thousands of Korean immigrants rely on an ancient Asian lending practice known as a kye to finance their prospering small businesses in Los Angeles and other cities.

In a kye , a group of a dozen or more friends or associates get together monthly and each contributes the same amount, usually ranging from $100 to $50,000, to a common pot. Each month, a different member takes the kitty and agrees to pay interest to the others. The members also promise to remain in the kye (pronounced kay) until each has collected the pot.

Koreans began to immigrate to the United States in large numbers after the Immigration Act of 1965 removed quotas based on national origin (for more information, see Asian/American Center RE-series/Koreans in New York). Like other immigrants who settled in the U.S., Koreans work in and own small businesses such as green grocers, convenience stores, and garment factories. The decision to work in these operations was due to several factors--many immigrants who were professionals and white- collar workers in Korea found their education was of little use once they arrived in the U.S. Lack of English skills made it difficult to obtain jobs comparable to those they held in Korea. With such limitations, they often worked for other Koreans in businesses where they learned about its operation and were able to save some of their earnings. Once they obtained enough capital and experience, they pursued their own business.

Koreans also chose to work in small businesses because, just as they were arriving in New York City, there was a decline in manufacturing jobs, and some service jobs like domestic work), which historically had been held by Asian Americans on the West Coast, already were filled by other ethnic groups. Also at this time, many European immigrant small business owners were retiring and selling their stores. The Koreans could provide the abundant supply of labor, moderate amounts of capital, and simple knowled

-- Kyeyoung Park, Visiting Assistant Professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. (1991)


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