What does it mean to be Korean-American?
An interesting question, indeed. What does being Korean-American mean to me? This question had weighed my heart down countless times before. I cannot be identified as Korean, or American, but rather both. I cannot be in either nation and feel as if I belong, so then where do I belong?
A pastor once preached about the importance of identity. What does that word mean to me? What is my identity, and what do I identify myself with? Are these even the right questions? Throughout my life, I believe I have been trying to identify myself through my hardships, my failures, my achievements, my talents, etc. I feel that many others, along with myself, try to identify ourselves the way we want to be portrayed in others’ eyes. Not only does this create a false identity, but also one that may prove difficult to maintain. Falsifying one’s identity is like signing up for a constant, never-ending battle within one’s self. Why do we… why do I continue to do this even when I know that in the end, I will be the one hurting?
Growing up, I went through a crazed fanatic phase. I used to watch all the latest Korean dramas, TV shows, music videos, etc. I knew all the Korean celebrities, their names, their age, the dramas that they’ve been in, etc. Then I went through another phase. A phase where I wanted to leave behind my Korean heritage. Although I was Asian, I started to despise all things that were “Asian.” I steered away from the Korean music, culture and even friends.
I was one out of two Koreans at my high school until my brother came to join me my last two years. Most of my life, my friends cracked Asian jokes out of harmless humor, but for me, these jokes instigated thoughts of wanting to be more “American,” or questions like “What if I was white?” They made me realize how different I was. I despised that word back then. Different.
My mother has always told me, “You are different from them.” Them referring to my friends and kids my age in general. At the time I had no idea what she was talking about. Why couldn’t I be the same? Why couldn’t I go out to play just like all my other friends? My background, the circumstances I grew up in, the opportunities I had and did not have, she was referring to them all. The differences became overwhelming. The differences started to suffocate me to a point where my identity seemed to be lost. I was lost. I became apathetic. I started to lose hope.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God, he created him;
male and female he created them.
– Genesis 1:27
It took me a while, but it wasn’t until I went off to college when I realized I was searching for my identity in all the wrong places. I used my achievements, work, friends and family to try and somehow identify myself, but it was all futile.
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
– Luke 9:25
I found my identity through my faith. Identity matters because He has given us an identity. God has a specific purpose for every person. In the bible, Jesus is described as Jesus of Nazareth and Jonah calls himself a Hebrew when introducing himself. It is not an accident that various groups of people and cities are named in the bible. God has created us individually. We are indeed different from one another, but in Him we are alike. In Him we have a similar purpose that is unique in our own ways. In order to find our purpose, we must deny ourselves and follow Christ. This was never meant to be an easy task; however, it is what we are called for. The Lord yearns for us and inside, our souls, as well, yearn for Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16
A verse we all know so well… but do we truly understand? Would we ever truly understand how deep and abounding His love is for us? Through my God, I pray for strength, confidence, wisdom and love. Without my God, I am nothing. Without my God, I cannot be identified. Without Him, I would not be here today.