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whim aside #2: the korean-american identity

16 Apr

whim aside #2: the korean-american identity

Other than the one I wrote when I started this blog last May, I have been stumped on how to write about the Korean American. It’s ironic because I’m K-A myself, a second-generation child of immigrants. Maybe it’s just harder because it’s like telling a fish to describe what it’s like to breathe underwater.

Looks like it’s James Joyce’s magic to the rescue with to let my mind go on stream-of-consciousness mode though of course, there’s going to be a bit revising and proofreading here and there to make this more readable.


So I’m an American Born Korean. When people see me, they see me first an Asian and then as an American on the way I dress or speak. That’s how I perceive it, but I don’t think much about my ethnicity when actually talking to them.

I have been fortunate to grow up in a city with a vibrant Korean community and located near Los Angeles, the mecca of Korean America. I even attended a public high school where it was about 50% Asians and of those Asians, about 80% were Koreans.

Other than the physical features, I wonder what makes a Korean American, a Korean. Is it because they could speak Korean fluently? Is it that they relish in eating Bibimbap and plenty of Kimchi (and not just K-BBQ)? Are they active in Korean traditional activities like drumming or dancing? Or is it that they have an thorough knowledge and interest in Korean literature?

If a non-Korean can say yes to all these things, can he be considered Korean?

Or is it because you’re Korean by blood even if you get your 안녕히가세요 and 안녕히계세요 mixed up? Then what about those who are part-Korean? Does that mean they are…less Korean?

(Aside-in-aside: I recommend watching David Boyle’s quirky indie flick Big Dreams, Little Tokyo and while it’s not about Koreans, it is about a white guy who is “more Asian” than his Japanese-American roommate, aspiring to be a sumo wrestler.)


I’ll conclude with three questions I imagine a reader asking me:

Are you related to Kim Jong-Un?

It is unlikely he’s my cousin, uncle, or nephew separated by the nineth degree; however, if you go back somewhere in the 1200’s, I might be. Or if you play the sixth degree of separation game, I might be, but then that also means you might be too, whether you’re Korean or not.

Are you related to Psy?

Wait, what? Okay, maybe you might think so because we have the same dance moves (actually no) or we both wear classy shades (mine’s better). But no, but probably years ago, my great-[insert many greats] grandfather probably danced with his.

Okay, how about something not pop culture oriented?

Are you North or South Korean?

I’ve been living in Orange County, California since I was in kindergarden. So I consider myself to be Southern Korean. And no, I don’t have a drawl in my speech, and with this, see ya’ll.

¹There are two ways to say goodbye in Korean, and it depends on who is leaving and who is staying behind. This Yahoo! answer post explains it and it is also where I copied and paste it because typing Korean on the keyboard is a pain for a K-A like me.


whim aside #1: line between faith and doubt

5 Apr

whim aside #1: line between faith and doubt

There are ideas that I want to blog, but I find myself always hesitating to press the publish button because of a few reasons: it’s too short; the structure isn’t steady; it rambles too much; the verb tenses look questionable; it’s bedtime.

So that’s where these whim asides come in. I was originally going to call it the “Do the James Joyce” series after the Dublin writer credited with writing in a stream of consciousness technique, which is pretty much write down whatever comes in your mind.¹ Note that it’s not guaranteed to get you published, but more likely get you arrested for literary indecent exposure (and have Freud roll in his grave so he can have a field day with you, and your thoughts about your mother).

So in this whimsical series, it’ll get me to write some stuff down of what has been on my mind; some of it will be light-hearted or personal (after all, this is my personal blog). So when I find that I haven’t been updating because I’ve been busy or being such a perfectionist, I’ll just let my thoughts run free and check for any indecent exposure before posting.

Kind of like cannonballing into the swimming pool (and making sure my trunks are on tight) rather than skinny dipping from the shallow ends.

Or you can consider the behind-the-scenes of me contemplating what to write. Damn, how pretentious and cheeky that reads.

¹Somehow, it worked well enough for him to publish books that excites English professors to the core. Finnegan’s Wake? You can definitely see the stream-of-consciousness at its best and common sense at its worst.


I have been meaning to write about my thoughts about my faith, which is at the moment is on the fence: Christianity on one side and agnosticism the other. And at the same time, jaded and lazy.

While shelving some books (I work as a library page), I came across Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind. I haven’t yet read the New Atheist books, such as God is Not So Great and Letter to the Christian Nation. It’s good to read something that is contemplative and seeks to somehow figure the space in between spirituality and humanism. I have read couple of stories so far, and the people’s reasons for leaving their birth religion (as the editor likes to call it) made sense. They were being sensible and thoughtful in their disillusionment.

I’ll confess that I still consider myself a Christian in the sense of believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior so I have that eternal life in heaven secured. After attending church for almost two decades, it became this mental reflex, I guess. Not so elegantly phrased, I know. Yet sometime soon I’ll have to choose heads or tails, and do so with conviction than just out of obligation and ignorance.


I was having dinner with my parents a few days ago on Easter, and my dad asked me to pray. I hesitated and said a short prayer. After my amen, my dad was puzzled and commented that I didn’t mention anything about Easter. I was surprised myself, and felt a bit guilty. Then again, I haven’t been going to church for some months now and just came back from Wondercon.

My parents do know I haven’t been going to church, and from what I assume, they think that I’m just going through some sort of phase, which I guess it is.

I recommend reading Craig Thompson’s semi-autobiographic graphic novel Blankets. I have been meaning to write a post about it, and will get to writing my thoughts about the story, but I’ll say this as to give you time to read it, should you be interested. (Warning for the conservative readers: This book contains some nudity and sexual content.)

The story is about Craig growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family, and while the novel focuses on his relationship with a girl he met at a Christian winter retreat, he wrestles with his faith. A faith-in-crisis as a reviewer aptly puts it.


An aside-in-an-aside, I started off this post listening to the songs by The National: Afraid of Everybody and Brainy. There’s just this vibe they have in these songs and their albums Boxer and High Violet. It’s infused with longing and the occasional heartaches.

(Yes, you might be tempted to think of writing them off as “emo.” Yes, these songs may draw up melancholy and a desire to yearn for something, but they do so marvelously well. It’s like eating delicate sushi and seeing the city lights below.)