I AM KOREAN AMERICAN

There was a time when being Korean American
was the equivalent of having an identity crisis,
torn between my Korean heritage
and my American upbringing.
There was a time when being Korean American
was the equivalent of being in hell,
burned alive by the flames of self-hatred.

Whenever I saw a Korean,
I saw nothing worth liking.
I saw narrow-minded bigots,
I saw unhappy repressed families
uncontrollable raging fathers
silent terrified mothers
I saw myself,
a kid sitting in his room alone,
attempting to cut himself with his Swiss army knife
because he thinks being Korean is a pathetic sin.

And then on April 16th, 2007,
I saw Cho Seung-Hui.

As I delved deep into his life
I saw him,
his rage intertwined with mine
and I became consumed with despair.

When the South Korean government
apologized for Cho’s actions
I became terrified that this rage I possess
was inherent in all Korean men,
our cursed heritage the formula for
ticking time bombs waiting to go off.

But as I approached the blurred edge
between us
I came to realize
that my rage didn’t come from
the world,
white people,
or other Koreans
but it came from my own father,
the man who I never understood.

So I confronted this fact for the first time in my life
and discovered the roots of my father’s upbringing,
discovered the love that he always had for me
which could only be expressed with his fists
and never through loving embrace.

With this knowledge,
self-hatred left me
with a silent goodbye
and walked off with Cho.

With nothing to keep me down
I found the beauty
in learning to love myself
so I can live out my life
and I can give my love
to the people around me.

I found the beauty
in knowing
that I have a choice
in how I want my story to be told
I can be ashamed of my ugly past
I can be ashamed of being Korean
and inflict in on the world
inflict it on myself
or I can accept it
and let it be told
let something ugly within myself
be turned into something beautiful.

And yes,
I don’t know the language,
I don’t get the culture,
I don’t quite fit in,
but it doesn’t matter anymore.

Because what I do get are
the little things in life.

I love how there is no food that can
satisfy my stomach
like some good ol’ jjangjjangmyun
where I get into a primal frenzy
and devour the noodles without fully swallowing
get that black soy bean sauce splattered all over my mouth
and I lick it all up like a hyperactive puppy.

I love how I can unleash my inner diva
in a light frenzy noraebang
and use my voice as a vessel of chaos
and dance my ass off in sheer ecstatic nonsense.

I love how when I look at these fine Korean sistas
I just go
Damn,
What’s your name?

I love how I can sit so peacefully
surrounded by my family
hear their chatters and feel their excitement
smell my grandma’s blissful home cooking
and although I don’t understand a word they’re saying
I know I can feel content
and just
Be.

I love how I can finally be proud of my Korean heritage
the heritage that I once despised.
No longer do I see myself
as a loser,
an outcast
a victim.

Instead
I see a fighter,
a lover,
a champion.

For I am a Korean
I am an American
I am Korean American.

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