Understanding Employment Barriers Among Older Korean Immigrants

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Purpose of the Study:

This study involved an in-depth exploration of the employment barriers of older Korean immigrants in Los Angeles.

Design and Methods:

This qualitative study used data obtained from 6 focus groups and 5 individual interviews. Participants were 36 older Korean immigrants living in Los Angeles, aged 50 years and older, and either unemployed or employed in part-time or full-time work. A grounded theory analytical approach and constant comparison method were used.


Ten major themes emerged as employment barriers for older Korean immigrants and were categorized as stereotype, human capital, and acculturation barriers. Ageism among employers specific to Korean culture, lack of English proficiency, separation from U.S. culture, marginalization from both Korean and U.S. cultures, and lack of social networks were important themes. In addition, older Korean immigrants experienced multiple interconnected barriers.


The findings highlight the importance of using a multidimensional approach to explore employment barriers among older Korean immigrants who face multiple obstacles in finding jobs. Implications for local governments and Korean communities and potential services to support employment opportunities for older Korean immigrants are discussed.

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