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케이파이 장학금 수상자 소감 - 데이빗 리군
  • 기사등록 2018-05-10 11:24:40
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데이빗 리


I never thought that I'd have to log into Common App ever again after December 31st. But there I was, a few days after being asked to speak here, searching for whatever information I could possibly use for the given topic: to describe my perspective as a Korean living in America, and as an extension, my thoughts on KPAl.  It was a tough one - is a tough one, and it was hard to think about. But I guess it is meant to be tough. Figuring out how to be me, was tough, as I'm sure it was for all of you. So I'd, of course, like to thank KPAI, for giving me this task, and the platform to speak about it on.

So, to inform you all of my perspectives, I guess it's easiest to start off with a word. Gyopo. A foreign-born Korean or a Korean once removed. I'm sure you've all heard it before. I know I have. I've been called it many times. But as an American Gyopo, the term never just referred to the title on my passport. It pointed at my tan skin and my short hair... My ahjumma-esque dialect

When told this, all I could ever think to say was "yes, I speak Korean like an ahjumma." But can you really blame me? Away from the motherland, I could only make do with mother. She was Korea for me, Nowhere else could I watch Running Man, or eat kimchi - jigae, or learn Korean than under her.

Oh, and she made sure I learned Korean. It was the only language we would speak in the house.  There was time enough for English in "Frog and Toad or Ronald Dahl, and notebooks and number two pencils. It would get to the point where I would later find myself, a second grader, going to fifth grade for reading and writing, and ESL for basic English speaking lessons. It seemed as though I had grown up filling my head with the voices of children's authors and driven, albeit fierce, Korean parents, leaving little room for my own.

It was a juggling act, like most of the other things we deal with. To be stuck in the limbos, and the in-betweens-we all know what it feels like.

Which leads me to the first thing I've learned about the job of the American Gyopo: to thrive in the discomfort. To realize that for us, success is often found in these spots of unbearable uncertainty. It was when I was mute, searching for my voice - that ambiguous part of my American-ness- that I found my love for writing. It was when my culture challenged me to hone my skills as an English practitioner and pushed me deep into the world of literature. It was when I found myself curious. When I asked questions like "Why are there two Koreas? Or "What is a comfort woman?" It was when I demanded to learn of this tiny peninsula half the world away, with its intense people, its love for pickled vegetables, its sorrowful past, and its estranged neighbor up north, that I achieved success.

We must be explorers. The pioneers of our own uncharted territory. Because truth be told, we won't find answers anywhere else. Not from Koreans. Not from Americans.

And maybe that's why I've never liked the term Korean-American. With all the time I've spent fretting over language, that hyphen in the middle just doesn't sit right. It implies a hierarchy, a separation a DMZ in the syntax of our own identities, and it goes against everything I've learned up to this point. It's never been about having two sides, or even being two things at once. Staying whole. Binding myself together. That is my role and my greatest challenge.

I might never be able to describe what it means to be a Korean living in America. But that only makes this gathering all the more important. The fact that KPAI exists, the fact that your are all gathered today, gives me faith in the solidarity of our one-of-a-kind community. It is thanks to events like this, these demonstrations of our pride and our culture, that allow me to feel brave in the face of the future. Both as a Korean... and an American. Thank you,


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