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Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Korean Pride Phases

Since one of the target demographics of this blog is interracial couples, I figured I should do some more posts about the topic (in additional to Nov/Dec '06 engagement series). This one doesn't deal so much with the relationship, but more with my side of some issues.

In regard to my own thoughts towards my Korean heritage, I went through some phases. Throughout the elementary years, I would be made fun of when someone found out my Korean name, which doubled as my middle name. I wished I could be like the other kids and have a normal sounding middle name. I didn't really like going to Korea that much, because it would usually be over summers, and my parents would put me in Korean schools in order to immerse me in the culture and language (I didn't have to do school work). It was fun, but I guess I just didn't like the thought of being in school when "no one else" in American was (too bad I wasn't homeschooled...I wouldn't have thought twice about it). I think it was just insecurity, as many children in unfamiliar situations probably deal with that.

As I transitioned to the high school years, I began to take pride in my heritage. I don't know what sparked the change. I started to become less and less insecure about my own differences, instead using them to highlight myself. I went to a small high school and made friends with the few Asian people in my grade (1 Korean, 1 Filipino). We were known as the Asian Gang. I would always put Korean writing on my possessions and whatnot. Since Florida does not require two state-issued license plates, my front one was a Korean flag plate. At this point, it seemed like some people even envied me because I was different from the rest. This Korean pride continued on for many years into college.

This swell of pride probably peaked during my freshman year at Georgia Tech, and leveled off after that, while still maintaining a pretty good level. It started to fall off when I began to think about marriage though. In high school, I always assumed that I would end up marrying a Korean girl that I would meet at a Korean church. Wrong; I began attending a decidedly non-Korean church, and even started dating a non-Korean as well. Anyways, when I first brought up marriage to my dad (around the end of my first senior year....GT co-ops take 5+ years to graduate), I came away from it with a sour taste. For details on the sour taste, read all the Turbulent Engagement posts.

I came away with a sour taste, and concordantly began to feel bitter towards Korean culture. I wrote a stream of consciousness on the computer, venting about various topics. Please keep in mind that I am referencing a journal entry I wrote when I was feeling angry, bitter, and resentful:

  • How can I be expected instantly to become a cultural Korean, when I've been raised in American culture my entire life?
  • It was shallow for Korean parents to mandate that their children marry other Koreans at ALL costs, when it seemed it would hardly matter in the long run.
  • Would my parents have a problem if I married a Korean girl who was 0% Korean inside? After all, Harmony had made considerable efforts to learn about Korean culture and language.
  • Korean people are racists! (I was angry and bitter, mind you)
  • I don't want to be the typical Korean man: worldly, swindling, manipulative, lazy.
  • Koreans typically get married at ghastly old ages (like 30 for men), for reasons that I found rather stupid.
Once again, please keep context in mind; I am not usually so angry, bitter, and unpleasant. Anyways, that phase of bitterness and resent towards Korean culture continued and probably peaked in August of 2005 (see here for the reason, paragraphs 5 and 6). And it has since died off a bit after receiving the green light from my parents in May. Who knows what other phases await the JunkMale family?

(aside) Korean relatives usually give large sums of money for presents, usually more for weddings. My liking of Korean culture went up slightly around December 16 ;)

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • FIL

    HI JM and H,

    IMO there are some great aspects of Korean culture, particularly concerning character issues like the importance of family, showing respect, being fiscally responsible... There is a lot to be proud of in your heritage. But I must admit the cuisine is still a bit "out there" for me ;-)

    FIL

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    I don't know much about Korean culture, but we did get to visit Korea for a couple of weeks. We loved our visit, and found the people we came into contact with friendly, courteous. I tried really hard to learn some few Korean phrases, and my feeblest efforts were met with encouragement and cheerful goodwill.

    In another Asian country where we have somewhat more experience, it was more like France- they just flatly refused to understand anything I said that wasn't pronounced perfectly.

    I gotta agree with your fil. But the HM loves Kimchee, the spicier the better. I sometimes buy him a jar and ask him to please eat it out on the porch.=)

  • Iris

    I really enjoyed this post. I could relate...I'm a bit nervous about how Abba and Umma are going to handle me getting married (if it ever happens) and all the stuff that's involved in that (e.g., approval of sig. other).

    My like for Korean culture always goes up just a little bit whenever I see relatives from Korea. ;)