From Cupcakes to Traditional Korean Food and Everything in Between

My Koreanness…The Good, The Beautiful, The Scary, The Sad

I promise to return to food tomorrow but I’m never one to hush when something’s on my mind.  It’s a flaw, they say but who are “they” anyways?

I love being Korean.  Even though I grew up in a traditional household, conversing in my native tongue, eating Kimchi with everything morning, noon, and night, the culture is something that still fascinates me.  It’s so much of who and what I am.  When I was younger, I was told to be ashamed of  it.  The shape of my eyes “weren’t right,” the girls would say, stabbing at me with looks of disgust when I brought rice to school instead of a sandwich.  It’s all very confusing when you’re just a little girl.  You wonder why you look so different and why Daddy eats such weird things.  Then when I got older, to be Asian was to be identified as a sexualized object.  The stereotypes and notions are even that much more visible here, in the South (not that discrimination isn’t present everywhere).  I revel in the fact that when people ask me where I was born and I tell them Texas, they give me this perplexed expression in response or they insist I must be half white because how else could you explain my proper English?  Oh, I get compliments all the time on ‘how good I talk’ for an “oriental.”  First of all, you’re abusing the English language and secondly, who says oriental anymore?  Geez people.  It’s as if to be an Asian person is to be a). shameful or strange b). a submissive sex kitten or c). a regular Doogie Howser.  I unsuccessfully tried to tell people that they were cheating off of the wrong person in Math class (I’m terrible, awful, allergic to numbers)!  My best friend is Caucasian so obviously, I’m well aware that this isn’t always the case but it still happens and I just wanted you to know.  Ah, how I digress.  This post was originally suppose to be about what I heard on Performance Today:

비날론 삼천리 , Vinalon Extending 3000-ri – Kayageum Performance Unhasu in Paris France

The North Korean Unhasu Orchestra playing at the sold out Pleyel Theatre in Paris.

As proud as I am of my heritage, nothing makes my heart sadder or heavier than North Korea.  Brother pitted against brother, nobody really, truly goes in and their people never come out.  North Korea is said to be one of the most ethnically homogeneous places in the entire world.   So little is known since such little data is provided and no one is allowed to roam freely to observe what’s really going on, yet tiny glimpses show a people that are dominated by fear and oppression. Human Rights Watch has labeled North Koreans as “some of the world’s most brutalized people.”  There are severe shortages of medicine and medical equipment and if people aren’t dying from malnourishment or preventable diseases, they are being tortured in political prisons or concentration camps.  Up to 2 million people have been reported from dying from food shortages alone.  In high school, I read everything I could get my hands on about the Holocaust and the fact that almost 70 years later, atrocities such as medical experimentation, starvation, rape, forced abortions, slavery…are all still occurring…I’m at a loss.  Some 200,000 people are shipped off into these camps with deplorable conditions, sometimes with their entire families (guilt by association) with no hope of ever being released and absolutely no trial and some 10,000 people die every year in them.  Why?  Maybe because you were suspected of being disloyal or Christian.  They are exploited with hard, forced labor and must perform with little or no equipment.  Children and the elderly get the same treatment: torture, starvation, and quotas to fill or else.  It makes my heart hurt so bad.  I never could understand how as one human being you could look at another human being and deem them to be less than what you are.  The massive grip of fear, the manipulation and brainwashing is so much, one could double over and vomit.  Some are so malnourished and ill that they resort to eating raw, un-skinned rats or pick solids from animal feces or pig slop.  I’m sorry if that’s too much.  I’ve never had to do that.  I’ve never known what it’s like to be really hungry or cold.  To sleep on wooden planks in the middle of Winter (the Winter’s can be pretty harsh in Korea) wearing the clothes off of the last prisoner who died, covered in blisters, welts, blood, and dirt.

What can be done that will impart a meaningful difference?  If you know, please tell me.

Ending with a heavy heart.

Love,

Your Squishy Monster

33 thoughts on “My Koreanness…The Good, The Beautiful, The Scary, The Sad

  • Bruce says:

    What a good post. I’m off for bed but I just want to say that I liked your writing on growing up and being Korean. I’m also interested in what you have to say about North Korea. I can only say that North Korea and others of similar ilk are mind numbing. I’m not a good cook but I’m sure I’ll appreciate your other posts. Bruce.

  • Cucina49 says:

    This is my second time visiting your blog, and I’m glad I came back. You write the most thoughtful posts!

  • Frank says:

    Stand tall, be proud, remain honest, and share your heart …. thus well said. Here’ my favorite line: “I never could understand how as one human being you could look at another human being and deem them to be less than what you are.” … which is simply outstanding.

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      I’ve never been quoted before so that’s a treat =D I shall maintain all of those things, my friend. Thank you in sharing the journey with me =D

  • Daron says:

    Hi Squishy, sorry to hear that your heart is heavy. I hope by sharing it has been lighten somewhat. I think thats what part of life is all about, us sharing bits and pieces of ourself with one another. I wish there was something we could do to help The Whole world understand that we all are human and just because we come from different places and are of different hues it doesnt mean that we are that much different, we are all basically the same! Please continue to care and continue to share!!!!

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      Hi Daron! I do believe you’re a new friend. I’m so glad that you’re here and thank you for taking the time to read some of my thoughts. This is so true and I wish everyone could share in this spirit. The world would definitely be such a better place =D

  • BlueCatShip says:

    Earlier today, I found your YouTube channel after you’d commented on Lila’s Asian Cooking channel on YouTube. I’m from a big city in Texas. I’m white. I went to school with kids from all backgrounds, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean kids. (Ironically, I haven’t eaten much beyond Chinese-American food, which I intend to change.) I’ve known people who were first generation immigrants and didn’t know any English, and I’ve known people who’ve been here generations, thick local (Texas) accent and all. (Seeing the look on an unsuspecting bystander’s face, hahaha, surprise, he or she is just as American and native as that bystander with the European ancestry.)

    I have a distinct food memory from high school one friend was Thai, and he’d brought food from home, rice and veggies and whatever else, wrapped in aluminum foil. It looked *fantastic* and much better than the very plain sandwich I’d just eaten. (I was passing by his table and stopped to say hi.) It goes to show, some people *like* those differences.

    (I’ll also admit, I did a double take. You look like someone I went to high school with, but younger, and she was Chinese-American.)

    —–

    About Korea, and about China — North Korea can’t hold out forever the way they treat their people and the amount of resources they divert to their military and elite. If they rattle their sabers too loudly, the Chinese might decide it’s too much trouble, and take over. Or North Korea may eventually fall under its own paranoia. — It is ironic how modern and free South Korea is, and how repressed North Korea is, considering that’s only since the 1950’s. Yet surely at some point, Korea will be reunited and healing can begin. I hope so. China’s different, but China will have to change too. Huge militaries and dictatorships and elite-only ruling classes…never last forever. They tend to fall apart in decades or centuries or the next time some group gets too fed up or power hungry.

    One skinny college boy with a backpack really can stand down a tank.

    Eventually, North Korea and China will both have to change.

    Oh, I don’t think we’re perfect over here, either. There are things to improve here at home. But it’s not the same.

    I am *very* glad I can have friends of all kinds and I can fix foods from all over the place, with groceries from local stores. Whether it’s Asian, Mexican, Cajun/Creole, traditional American homestyle, whatever, it’s one big way we can find things in common.

    Music is one of those common points too.

    The people who can only see a “foreigner, outsider” and make fun of their “strange” ways…don’t stop to think that they would be strangers elsewhere. That goes for prejudice in either country.

    That joy in our differences, finding value in what makes people unique, is fragile, but it is a huge strength when it’s valued.

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      I really hope that change occurs within our generation. As the 4th of July approaches, it makes it that much more apparent that freedom is not free and it’s not something that everyone has and we take so much for granted. I was happy to read your thoughts. I’m a Texan girl myself =D Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts!!!!

  • Charles says:

    Hi Squishy, you should watch this movie:
    http://www.youtube.com/movie/life-in-a-day

    The creators asked people all over the world to record an entire day on a specific date. They got over 10,000 hours of footage and made it into a 1.5 hour documentary… absolutely beautiful, and there’s one guy in it is cycling all over the world to “unite Korea”. Of course, one man alone can’t do it, but some of the things he says are incredibly moving.

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      Thank you for this recommendation, Charles. I will be watching this tonight! I hope that this happens in our lifetime :/

  • Lester says:

    Dear .Angie. I have and have known many wonderful Korean people.I have relatives that were in the war in Korea. The conditions I have heard are hell there and getting worse( North Korea ) The WORLD situation is frightening.

    Angie. Keep on keeping on! Keep communicating about the Korean situation, the horror. Keep expressing how you feel in every way about being a person of Korean heritage.Your hopes dreams experiences. Your hopes for your dear people.

    Physically, emotionally, spiritually, In every way . Every day! Be loud and proud of who GOD created you to be! SMART, LOVING, WONDERFUL! CARING , SHARING, PASSIONATE A WOMAN!!KOREAN!

    From head to toe. Inside and out Always embrace, Your KOREANNESS, Your JOY, LOVE, FEMININITY , Your Angieness!

    Thanks for sharing Angie.

    Love.

    Les.

  • Barbara says:

    It breaks my heart too and makes us all feel helpless. This was a wonderful, if sad, post and your heritage is something to be proud of. I wish we could solve all the world’s problems.

  • Jessica says:

    i was lucky enough to have been surrounded by really accepting people growing up so i never really even realized i was asian until i got older, which i am truly grateful for. i have seen many documentaries on n korea and it is truly heartbreaking to watch, i too hope one day that can change

    -Jessica
    http://runninginsideus.blogspot.com/

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      That reminds me of the Fresh Prince of Bell Air episode where the kid is like, “I’m black?!?” lol…change will happen, I won’t stop believing.

  • Norma Chang says:

    Congratulations and my admiration for writing this post.
    I am a mature adult (much, much older than you) and have many of the same experiences.
    Once an elementary age kid look at me and asked: “Your English is very good, where did you learn to speak English”.
    Adults would ask: “How come you do not have an accent.” My answer to that was: “I am too busy, could not find the time to develop one.”
    I was presenting a Chinese cooking program for an organization and a few people phoned to find out if they could understand me.
    Another time a guy said to me: “You do not act like a typical Chinese woman.” because I refused to put up with his nonsense.
    I could go on and on. Sorry, this is too lengthy.

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      Thanks for your words, Norma. I love your response, “I am too busy, could not find the time to develop one.” That’s fabulous! You’re fabulous!

  • Bonnie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. For me, I love knowing what goes on inside people’s minds because it really helps you get to know the person well in a short period of time.

    http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  • Waegook Tom says:

    North Korea…it’s an effed-up place. I read Barbara Derrick’s book “Nothing to Envy” about the famine in the 1990s – it’s the tale of 6 people who managed to escape. If you haven’t yet read it, I really recommend it.

    What can be done though…I’m not sure. I have several acquaintances who are going to North Korea this year, and I’ve told them I strongly disagree as it’s just providing money to an evil regime to go and watch a screwed-up communist freak show.

    I hope the Koreas will unite one day, but it’s not looking to great at the moment.

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      I will definitely be adding that to my list of reads!!! This is very true and I wish they’d allow you to see a real view of the country. Even an ugly window can be masked by expensive curtains :(

  • CCU says:

    You have brought up so many issues in this wonderful post my friend!
    I am so happy that you appreciate your heritage this way!
    I am lucky to go to a school where people are quite accepting of different cultures but I have been in situations where people look at me weird!
    You are inspirational my friend!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      I’m glad to hear it. I recently came back from Canada where diversity seemed to be very much embraced. Hopefully one day, all of the world will be like that. Thank you for your words, my friend =D

  • I loved this post and I hope that you know that just by writing your thoughts you will probably be making a difference, because you will get these issues into other people’s minds. When I was reading my way through the children’s section in the library in middle school, I read a novel about a Japanese family in the US dealing with the ordeal of internment. I was never taught about it in class, but it became a very real, pressing issue to me through that book. This is the power of the written word, and you are using it.

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      I hope so. Thank you for providing me with a bit of comfort. I could barely get any rest last night because I sat awake thinking about this :/

  • idk says:

    I have to many continents in me

    (づ  ̄ ³ ̄)づ

  • thehcookie says:

    i absolutely LOVE this post. YOu nailed so many things, because I experienced the very same things myself. People don’t believe me when I tell them I was born in OK. Yup, and you would never guess what my English name is!! I grew up in a very Caucasian community and was one out of 3 Asian girls in my entire Highschool. Every bracket was a little strange for me as when I was in elementary& junior high, people assumed I was some kind of genius, and when I was in highschool, the whole sex object thing I remember quite well. I always had my lunch with white rice often wrapped in crispy seaweed and you know what sometimes I brought that “weird stuff” to lunch in high school too ;) I actually used to feel EXTREMELY awkward being around Korean people, and felt more at ease hanging around Caucasians. So weird right? I think it is because at the time, I just wasn’t comfortable in my own skin~ it takes a while to realize who you are, and I love how you can give such a raw account of your take of our heritage, and gosh don’t get me started about N Korea… this entry is prob the longest comment I have ever written sorry!!!

    • The Squishy Monster says:

      Oh Unni, I appreciate it so much! I’m glad I’m not the only one. I meant to just blog about Unhasu but then, it spurred on all the other thoughts that I always carry around with me in my head. For the first portion, I wish that we had more strong female Asian women to look up to in the media and for the last portion, I wish it were a different way :(

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