Korean-American and proud.
Nowadays with the boom of kpop and the abhorrent amount of koreaboos (it’s so cool to be Korean now guys. look at how hip and trendy I am *rolls eyes*), it may be hard for people to believe that a Korean (let alone a pale Korean) might not be proud of her heritage. But the thing is, growing up (even in NYC—Flushing, Queens nonetheless) I had to constantly explain to people who I was.
"Are you Japanese?"
"Are you Chinese?"
"….then what are you?"
Yes, “what”. As if I am some thing you can categorize. I’ve had people holler, “Nĭ hăo” and “Konichiwa” at me and my mom when I was younger. Ha, I even remember having to brush my teeth 3-4 times on the mornings I ate kimchi cause my mom was afraid kids might tease me and say I had “kimchi breath” like some of the other kids in our neighborhood (I brush my teeth well, once would have been plenty). And while other kids got to pack their favorite foods for field trips, it wasn’t until the 4th or 5th grade when I pleaded with my mom and told her that the other kids packed Korean food too that my mom decided to pack me mandu and donkatsu (and she picked these two cause they’d be the least “smelliest”). (My mom’s relentless worry didn’t stop then either, how many other Koreans got worried phonecalls from their immigrant parents after the Virginia Tech shooting? “Did anyone bully you?” “Did anyone threaten you?” “Are you okay?” “God, why did he have to be Korean?!”) I’ve had people ask me questions like “What kind of Asian/Korean are you?” Not to mention—stop me if this sounds familiar—the countless times I’ve had to answer the phone, fill out legal/important documents, talk to professionals, and order at fast-food chains (Can I get a Big Mac please? Wait what. Hold on. 어? 칙킨? Sorry, can I get the chicken nuggets instead) because my mom didn’t speak English and my proud father (who lived in the US since he was 14) was too insecure about his accent/command of English. Forget the fact that I was still learning how to multiply and divide, that doesn’t matter when you’re the child of immigrants. All of a sudden you become an unofficial adult, doctors and teachers begin to look at you instead of your mother at PTAs and unexpected trips to the ER. “What a mature kid! You’re all grown up aren’t you?” And so eventually, I clung to my American-ness, my accentless English (forget the fact that Korean was my first language). As an American, I could be a kid. As an American, I could succeed in life. As an American, I could be ~free~. And besides being American is the greatest thing in world *cue national anthem, release the bald eagle as flag waves dramatically in the background*. I was American before Korean, my grandparents and parents did not cross borders and risk their lives for me to be just Korean. But here’s the thing: clinging onto something that inherently hates you, your heritage, and your people is toxic. It slowly poisons the mind and causes you to turn your back on the very thing that gave you life. And the worst part? I see this too often in my community. So many of us turned away and separated from our communities. “We are not like those Koreans.” “We’re not really religious or anything.” “They wouldn’t understand.” Some of us may be proud of ourselves. But we’re not that proud to be Korean. In fact, many of us try extra hard to purposely separate ourselves from our ”Korean-ness”, like I have done for years. As if we could chop up our identity into pieces and re-piece it together; we’re humans, not jigsaw puzzles. But idk, guys. I think somewhere along the line someone lied to us and we bought it. I mean hell, I’ve been mistaken for being one of "those kinds of Korean girls" countless times. So let’s stop focusing on all the things we hate about our culture, let’s stop trying to divorce ourselves from what it is inherently a part of who we are. We are as much Korean (if not more) as we are American. Let’s be proud of that. Let’s strike fear into the heart of any koreaboo that dares to tell us anything about our people and heritage. And so, I am Korean and I am proud. Are you?