April 16, 2014

8 Observations on how Americans are getting my Korean Name Wrong!

While I like my name (Kee Won Huh), it has caused me problems living in the U.S. Not my name’s fault, of course. It’s just that U.S. naming customs and documentation have taken years to catch up to accommodate the naming customs of immigrants (many of which are now American citizens). In fact, they still haven’t caught up. Here’s a short list of problems I’ve encountered:

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How Korean am I? (By Teresa Armor)

(By Teresa Armor) At the latest KAACP dinner, the notion of “How Korean Am I?” came up. For those of you unfamiliar with my recent article on KAACP, it’s the Korean Adult Adoptees of Central Pennsylvania. So the subject of “Korean-ism” might be foreign to those who grew up in traditionally Korean households, e.g. homes where parents, grandparents, and possibly aunts and uncles spoke, cooked, and lived Korean. Those of us adopted into culturally non-Korean homes cannot necessarily relate to how “All Koreans” are like this or that, or do this or that. My current joke, although it’s not really that funny, is that I’m not as Korean as I think I am. Physically, I can play the part, but what does it really mean to be Korean? How Korean am I really? Does it mean more than being born with these particular set of genes?

A wise and wonderful lady (that I’ve recently had the opportunity to get to know through the above mentioned dinners) had the following thoughts which I felt expressed the concept succinctly, yet eloquently. It is stated as follows:

My biological mother was Korean, and after a stay in an orphanage for the first ten months of my life (in 1950 due to her inability to properly care for me), I was adopted by a wonderful family in the U.S. When I look in the mirror, a Korean woman with short black hair, turquoise framed glasses, and a few wrinkles that expresses “I’ve experienced life,” reflects back at me. [Read more...]

Koreans all Look the Same – but why do so many Koreans have the Same Name? (By Sohyun Boo)

(By Sohyun Boo) When I first was introduced to a larger Korean/Asian American population on my college campus, I had a hard time keeping everyone straight (I’m Korean American by the way).  I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian community. My eyes were not accustomed to a sea of black hair, round faces, slit eyes, 5 ft. 8 in., sub 150 lbs. soaking wet populace.  I would play basketball and found myself passing the ball to the wrong teammates because I couldn’t keep everyone straight. So, I understand the generic stereotype that–we all look the same. Of course, eventually, I grew accustomed to the look and became much better at noticing the individuality within the look.

But what still remains the same are the names. David. John. Sam. Christine. Esther. Jenny.  How many Korean friends of yours have the same name? I can see that a lot of these names are from Judeo-Christian tradition since many Korean-Americans consider themselves Christian.  However, when I find out that “David Kim” also has a traditional Korean name, my ass gets chapped.  What was wrong with their Korean name?  Is it because a parent felt that it would be too difficult to pronounce by non-Koreans? Who were they trying to protect?  Why make up a completely new name because one’s own personal name is difficult to pronounce? Is it part of the “dumbing dow”n of our multicultural society? I believe that this is inadvertently second-classing our culture to a former White America. This is unusual for a typically nauseatingly proud Korean culture. [Read more...]

“Show some respect, use both hands!” – A lesson on how two hands are better than one (By Moses Yoon)

(By Moses Yoon) When I was a young boy, I noticed a familiar pattern of a simple gesture that I noticed between Korean adults – when a younger adult gave something to an older adult, the younger would give the object to the elder with two hands instead of one.

I always thought this simple gesture to be quite un-necessary when I was younger. Why give an object to another person with two hands instead of one?

First of all, it’s just way easier to lift one’s hand and give an object to somebody else, right? The act of holding an object with two hands and giving the object to somebody else seemed a little too inconvenient, a waste of energy – not to mention how awkward it is to offer something to somebody with two hands.

Do you know what I’m talking about here or am I the only one who noticed this?

I also determined that giving something to somebody with two hands who is older than you was a sign of respect to the recipient of the object. But for me, I was too Americanized to even want to follow this seemingly Koreanesque gesture. I didn’t really care for it to be honest. When I gave something to somebody, whether younger or older, I’d simply hand it over with one hand. No big deal. [Read more...]

Satisfaction Deferred – Our Korean Parents and the Pettiness of our Modern Complaining (By Paul Lee)

(By Paul Lee) It is the summer time.  The weather is the warmer, sleeves and skirts the shorter, and offices increasingly the unbearable.  For me, office days are limited as I will be relinquishing the cubicle for the library to begin my candidacy for a juris doctorate at Brooklyn Law School this August.  The reality hasn’t quite hit me yet, but I’m trying my best to have fun, relax, reflect on how I got here, and conceptualize where I’d like to be in a few years.

For starters, I really thought I was going to be in law school a bit earlier. I thought I’d enroll at a higher ranked school.  I didn’t think I’d have a string of various entry level jobs littering my resume at 26.  I didn’t think the only real marketable skills I would have four years out of college would be masterful fluency in elementary, conversational Korean and being marginally proficient in Microsoft Office.  For undergrad, I thought I’d be at Columbia, not NYU.  I thought I’d have a 3.8, not a 3.2.  I thought a lot of things and projected the future version of myself to be much more elevated than where I am today.  Sad.

If any solace is to be found in my continuing level of mediocrity through my mid-20s, it is that many of my 20-something peers have been following somewhat of a similar path.  Robin Henig of the NYTimes wrote an article in August 2010 whose title depicted our generation pretty well, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” Henig characterizes the reason for such an article to be written in multitudinous fashion including this idea from Jeff Arnett, a psychology professor, who believes that:
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