I am often really interested in the intersection of race, ethnicity, culture and nationality. What is "essentialist" in us and what is culture bound? This article about ethnic Koreans who grow up as Latino/a in Mexico and Cuba was so fascinating. Of course I think about Korean Americans - those of us who may be third or fourth generation ethnic Koreans but feel culturally "American" and may no longer speak Korean at all, or read it, have never eaten Korean food, have no knowledge of Korean history. It made me wonder about how many generations before the Koreans in Mexico had shed all ties to Korea. Was it after the second generation? And how kind of funny to me that in the LA Times story, these Korean-Mexican young people traveled to LA to learn more about their Korean heritage.
From the article:
Chae said that when he spoke to the young Korean Mexicans, he could tell they were surprised he spoke Spanish fluently. He in turn was struck by how strongly their identity was rooted. "They're real Mexicans," Chae said. "They have a real Mexican way of talking. They use a lot of doble sentidos (double entendres). Mexicans use a lot of double meanings."
It made me question what a "real" Mexican is. Mexican is a culture, it's a ethnicity, it's a nationality. As a mama, I think about these things a lot. My daughter just started high school and has already had one boyfriend and is considering her options for another. Both these teens are non-Korean. I know it is early to think of it, but if she ever has children some day, the likelihood of either of my kids having a Korean or part-Korean partner is somewhat small - and I've thought about the fact that my "Korean-ness" (both genetically and culturally) may be further "diluted" even more. I have to admit there is a small part of me that is a teeny bit sad about the idea of having grandchildren who may have no connection to their Korean heritage. Or even have an Asian American identity. (When my daughter was really young, she had a best friend who was biracial Japanese Hawaiian and white - and I secretly thought if they ever grew up and had kids, they'd still look Asian!)
On the other hand, I fully believe that there are a continuum of ethnic and national identities one can have, regardless of the "amount" as if we're using measuring cups to parcel out genetics.
So, readers, what makes someone Korean? Genetics, culture, nationality?
What are your thoughts?
-- Jae Ran