June 2, 2008

Korean Korean

Recently, a Korean-American friend of my husband’s found my blog and declared she hadn’t realized how Korean I was. The comment gave me pause for a number of reasons but first of all because it was ironic – I’d started this blog as a place to wool gather about things I love about Korean culture but really it was also a way to define things as well. Anyone who knows me would answer in kind, “She’s not Korean Korean, she married white-latino and doesn’t hang out with Koreans.” Because, you know, Korean Koreans pretty much only hang out with other Koreans especially if they are a part of a church and while they might socialize with their work or school buddies they don’t date or have intimate relationships with non-Koreans.”

It’s an odd divide when I think about it, and kind of huge really. Because for some reason, there are very few who mix as easily in both cultures and two of those few are my sister and brother. I used to think it was a generational thing, that 1.5’ers being the first to truly assimilate either became Americanized or they clung together and formed their own identity, which we now call Korean-American. And even within those who clung together there were degrees, mostly determined by how fresh off the boat they were. Literally. And all of this came about because the seventies and eighties were not so much kind to the minority folk, it was not cool to be ethnic even if affirmative action was big. It really took the late nineties for people to internalize the great multi-cult message and I remember my amazement still at watching my brother and sister date across the ethnic lines at the very same high school where a popular boy told me that I wasn’t really Korean but very pretty. To my own shame I took this as the compliment it was meant to be – at that time I was the second Korean/ethnic girl ever to be popular, a path trail blazed by the wondrous junior Juyoung (she used her Korean name even!) who dated the most popular senior in high school, well on my way to finding out that the path to cool was even more treacherous than korean.

So what is this invisible wall exactly? Why can’t Korean Koreans mix as intimately with non-Koreans and why don’t KA girls like me feel as comfortable in the KA world?

June 5, 2008

Do you ...


... sleep Korean style (co-sleep) with your kids?
... bathe with them?
...deh mi-rroh? the kids?
...ear pick them?

I need to know.

June 15, 2008

We're back from vacation!

And I am sporting some serious Lena Horne. It turns out my #2 tans even faster than I do so if you happen to see a 16 month old toddling around Brooklyn with the brownest little limbs you've ever seen on a half-Asian, please don't judge me - I've gone through five bottles of sunscreen in eight days and apparently with us, you have to sunscreen our genes (My husband and #1 though apparently have yang-ban genes, they have a nice golden glow but nothing that shouts out eight days of weak ozone layers.)

Hope everyone is having a good start to their summers!

June 17, 2008

Dear Daughter...


June 22, 2008


Finally made it to the Korean market in Jackson Heights and came home with these beauties. This time of year makes me long for the garden I had in LA and I just learned these melons are easy to grow at home...

June 26, 2008

Probably because we're from North Korea.


There are a few words we use in our family that my siblings and I cannot seem to find used in any other Korean family. It's weird because for us it was as if we grew up to discover "bop" didn't mean really "rice" or "ppo-ppo" didn't mean "kiss." My theory is that these are regional North Korean words because my grandparents were from the northernmost part of Korea, just south of the Chinese border...

My whole maternal side family says "jji-jji" for "dirty" - not "ji-ji" with the soft "j" sound but double consonant, hard "jj" which to our horror as adults, we learned is actually the common slang term for "boobs". My mom swears it is a normal word, "It mean REALLY dirty. Emphasize. You know, for the kids."

We also used the word "jjoy" for "breasts". Again, hard double consonant "j". When the Joy dish soap commercials first came out, my cousins and I would collapse into a fit of giggles at the refrain, "Just let your Joy show! In the things you do! Just let your Joy show!" ( We also eventually made a dance routine to this song that involved, unfortunately, flashing our chests whenever the word came up while belting out the chorus, a moment only eclipsed by the time we thought it would be cool to give our haraboji a nickname so for one whole Christmas day we ran around screaming "Hey Boji, we love you Boji!" )

("Boji" is the Korean word for "vagina".)

(The adults apparently were too mortified to correct us, as evidenced by the memory of my grandfather's face from that day - a kind of grimace when we thought it was so fun.)

Now besides the fact that our family seems to talk about breasts an awful lot, why would we be the only Korean family to use these words?

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