My father and I have an interesting relationship. Because we are both busy people, we often talk while driving in the car. We usually talk about things going on currently, but recently, my father has brought up a new topic: marriage.
Little did I know that this conversation wouldn’t really be about marriage, but rather about who I am, who we are. I never thought that my own family would be the ones to ask me, “But where are you really from?” on me.
“Joy, I think you should marry a Korean boy.”
“Why, appa?” I had only dated one Korean boy.
“Because we are Korean.”
For me, my identity was never just Korean for me. I am a 2.5 generation Korean Canadian-American.
My father is a first-generation Korean. He was born and raised in Korea. My mother is 1.5 gen. She was born in Korea, but raised in South America and the United States. When my parents were married, they started working in the ministry in Korea for a few months before deciding to move to California. They lived in California for about 5 years, where they gave birth to both of my older sisters. The four of them obtained U.S. citizenship and when the opportunity knocked, my family moved to Alberta, where I was eventually born. My father became the pastor of a Korean church in Alberta, and shortly after, their American citizenship became my citizenship, and my Canadian citizenship became a part of their identity. We had three titles under our belt: Korean, Canadian, and American.
But, how was I going to deny what my dad said? Yes, I am Korean.
“But appa, I’m not just Korean and I don’t think that I can marry a Korean boy from Korea. Plus, I know next to no Koreans who are from here. Our mentalities are different.”
We are Korean, but my family is Westernized. We eat rice everyday, go to a Korean-speaking church, and growing up my best friends were Korean international students. But on Thanksgiving we eat turkey. My sisters and I feel more comfortable with English. In fact, I’m an English lit major.
Silly me though, I forgot it was the same case for my parents.
My father mentioned how the pool for 1.5 or 2nd generation Koreans is very small and 2.5 gens like myself is quite rare. With few people to choose from, it’s a hard concept to grasp but it’s not impossible. Many of us are among the first generations out of Korea and we are still trying to find the meaning of who we are and where we really come from.
After a while he replied again, “You’re right but we are Korean. We share the deep roots of culture and language. And when you and your sisters are married with children, we can all gather and talk.”
By talk he didn’t really mean verbal language comprehension. Culture encompasses so much more.
What my father said really touched me. I’m not convinced to marry a Korean boy, nor have I made up my mind not to marry one. But he made a point: it’s not just where I am from, but who we are. Our family history painted the intricate details of our understandings of who we are, and where we come from.
The name of the place I’m from might have been a sufficient answer for some, but not for me.
I know the answers they want. I can offer a piece, but it doesn’t identify with where I’m from. All of it is a part of me. Even this small conversation with my dad.