My name is Kim Moo Yong and I am a Korean-American teenage male. I attend John Bowne High School in Flushing. My family migrated to the U.S. from Korea on January 3rd, 1997. My mother and father own a restaurant in Manhattan, around 32nd Street and Broadway. We moved to Brooklyn because my father had relatives that had already migrated to the U.
S. that were living close by in Queens, Flushing and Korea Town in midtown Manhattan. Most of my mother’s relatives live in or around San Francisco Chinatown and other parts of Southern California.Although we are now living in United States, and we are American citizens, I can’t honestly say we have been fully assimilated into the culture here.
I mean, on the streets and in the businesses where we live they speak Korean. We attend Asian fellowship events. Many Korean-Americans only watch only Korean television shows and go to the Korean video stores that are abundant here in Flushing and Korea Town. My family attends the Messiah Korean American Lutheran Church in Flushing where we see many of our neighbors, friends and relatives. When we have parties, it’s usually with relatives or other Korean families and they generally speak Korean. In the school that my friends and I attend, Flushing High School and John Bowne High School, again we’re exposed to a lot of Korean culture.
Staying inside this “bubble” of Korean culture feels safe to us. It’s what we know and in general, we’re pretty good to each other within our culture. We have to be. Sometimes, when my friends and I go outside our area to a mall where we stand out like foreigners, as I’m walking together either with my friends or my girlfriend, we hear other teenagers snickering and referring to us as FOBs (fresh off the boat), “those damn Gooks,” Chinks, Slants, Slopes and Zipperheads. Things like that just make us want to retreat back into our own neighborhoods—safe and secure, surrounded by other Gooks I suppose.I see part of the lack of enculturation as our own fault. I mean, some of the older Koreans don’t like it if the younger Koreans aren’t speaking fluent Korean.
You want to ask them, “Why did you come to America if you’re only going to hang out with each other, speak Korean, eat only Korean food, shop only at Korean stores and attend Korean churches?” But you don’t. We still probably have more respect for our older people than many others here respect their older relatives. It will be interesting to see how things continue to go in another generation or two.It’s not all our fault though. Even when my friends and I tell our school friends the correct pronunciation of our name, they sometimes still call you what seems to them the funnier way of pronouncing your name. I think it’s rude but some of them are pretty cool and they just don’t see it as rude. Sometimes, I’ll intentionally mispronounce their name and if they don’t like it, they’ll stop mispronouncing my name.
If it doesn’t bother them that I mispronounce their name, I stop being bothered when they mispronounce mine. Life is weird that we sometimes spend so much time on details or petty stuff as my grandma Yong would call it. You can become too sensitive to those things, I guess.Most of my friends date girls within our culture. I have a couple friends who refuse to date Korean girls.
I’m not really sure why. I think they feel they will be more assimilated as an American if the generation of children they produce are 50% American. Some Koreans intentionally try to disassociate themselves from the Korean culture once they arrive in America. I think that’s just as bad or probably worse than only relating to those of our culture once we arrive here.It’s pretty common for our parents to “get visitors” from Korea only to fix them up with young Korean-Americans singles already living here.
There’s a lot of bi-coastal relationships in that girls and guys from California will come to New York to see what’s in New York to date in the Korean-American communities here, and some New Yorkers will go to California to see what’s out there in their Korean-American communities. I guess it keeps the gene pool healthier that way too.As far as the Korean-American’s having reason to not always feel as part of the culture here in America, an example I could use would be how some things were said about Koreans in general after the Virginia Tech tragedy. I mean, when a U.S.
citizen goes around shooting people, it’s not then associated with they did that because they are an American so much here as when a “foreigner’s” actions seems to point to their culture.But many first-generation Korean-Americans took it upon themselves to apologize for the actions of Cho Seung Hui just because of the shared ethnicity. I think us younger Korean-Americans felt like “hell, we’re going to get blamed for it anyhow so we’re certainly not going to apologize for someone else’s actions just because they’re originally from the same country.” I’m responsible for my actions, not the actions of everyone originally from Korea. That’s one of the many ways the older generation Koreans and the younger generations separate. It would make more sense for the whole world to feel bad when someone loses their life but not just other members of that ethnicity.
But that argument would be a losing battle with my parents and my parent’s parents. They think the younger Korean-Americans are becoming selfish like American teenagers, but they don’t say that in front of Americans. They act polite and all.