Growing up as a Korean in a non-Korean-speaking country, I never felt as if I wasn’t Korean or that I didn’t have any right to label myself as Korean. In fact whenever I had to do team-building exercises or leadership exercises that asked me to identify myself, generally this the way that I labeled myself:
So the first year I was in Korea, I spent the majority of the time trying to adjust myself from the very conservative Korean-American culture that I had grown-up in and lived with abroad to the liberal and not traditional culture of present day Korea. Korean culture, particularly in North America, is basically Korean society from the early 1900s. When you’re Korean growing up outside of Korea, but in Korean society, you learn to welcome anyone and everyone that’s 1/100th of a percent Korean. Partly because statistically there aren’t that many Koreans in the world and there are less that live outside of Korea. No one cares where you were born or where you were raised, alls that matters is that you’re Korean.
I’ve always seen myself as Korean, never as less than, never as not, always Korean. I’ve never had to defend my Koreanness to other Korean-Americans, but it seems like everytime I turn around here in Korea, I have to fight to get a Korean national to respect my heritage.
I’ve heard some crazy things, one person said that it’s great that my parents died when I was young because I got my US citizenship because of it. If I say that I’m hangukin, Korean, I’ve actually been corrected and told that I should say that I’m a foreigner, waygukin. And those are the nicer of the things said to me.
I want to say something, but what can I say? Other than being confident in myself…what can I say?