Retaining a Korean Identity Essay

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Some years ago at one of our frequent family dinners, my paternal grandmother grumbled something in Korean to my mother. Now, after twenty-plus years of exposure to Korean and other foreign languages buzzed about, I've grown quite adept at tuning out most of it, but this time my ears perked up; I heard my name mentioned. I asked my mother, "What did she say?" She muttered, "Nothing, never mind. Eat more spinach." Undeterred by her concern for my dietary habits, I insisted on knowing what my grandmother had said about me, because I could tell by her tone that it was not very flattering. After some persistence, my mother told me my grandmother said that I have no "cultural identity." I could see my grandmother eyeing me from across…show more content…
We are alike, as popular minority sentiment went, because our parents came from the same place. That is why our hair is the same, why our eyes are the same. "See," as their attitude would tell me, "we have the same differences." Along with this, however, came questions asking why I did not speak Korean, read Korean, or write Korean. I was supposed to date only Korean boys, and basically, just act more Korean. Peer pressure allowed us to be American but only in terms of being Korean-American. We could listen to American pop music and appreciate western fashion, but we must never, ever forget that our parents came from another country, and we are Korean. This pressure to conform had me gagging more than the smell of putrid kimchee (the national Korean dish of pickled spicy cabbage). These things were hardly ever spoken out loud, however; they were only strongly suggested by silent approval or disapproval of our choices.

I did not take this passively; I was too outspoken about things. I did not like having other people's views and opinions forced on me. So I fought back. I did not rebel in the way movies show teenage rebellion; I did not dye my hair pink and green or smoke in the girl's restroom. No, I just argued a lot, with my parents, with my peers, with other adults. I demanded to know why I had to read,

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