I was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1973. My parents immigrated to the United States in 1976 when I was three and my brother was five. We moved to NYC and then eventually settled in northern New Jersey. Although my parents left Korea we were never far from home. We attended a Korean church. We ate Korean food at home. We went to Korean School and I addressed my parents and anyone their age in Korean only.
As the years went by my brother and I became more and more acculturated into Western culture. Speaking Korean at home transformed into a Korean-English dialect better known as Konglish. My mom incorporated new recipes into her home-cooking like spaghetti and hamburgers. I stopped going to church in 2004 (I won’t get into that now – maybe another day).
In the last few years I’ve realized that I’ve lost touch with my Korean-American roots. When I stopped going to church I also ended most of my friendships with fellow Koreans. The only Korean (actually Konglish) I speak nowadays is weekly conversations with my mom. The only Korean food I ate for awhile was the occasional trip to a Korean restaurant (which is tough for me in Seattle when the food back in NJ/NY is sooooooo much better).
I’ve taken some small steps toward recovering some of my heritage. I scoured a few websites that had Korean recipes and started making things like jja-jjang-myun, pah-juhn, bulgogi and bibim-neng-myun. I started shopping more at the local H-Mart and Uwajimaya to get things like pre-marinated kalbi and dwaeji-bulgogi. God I love dwaeji-bulgogi!
Anyways I recently found a website called I AM KOREAN AMERICAN and put up a small story/bio about myself. I’ve started following more well known Korea-Ams on Twitter. I’ve been considering a tattoo that honors my heritage! I’ve told my mom that on my next trip home I would like to hear stories about her childhood and history.
With all that said – In the end I know that I don’t need to do anything to be MORE Korean-American but I want to do more to honor my culture and heritage.
Now who wants to get some Korean food??