Thought I’d take some time to share some of my thoughts as I’ve been here in Korea for a little more than a month. Initially, I was excited to be here, to have some new experiences and to get know Korea in a first-hand manner. By now, I’d say the novelty has settled in and I’ve been thinking about myself and the world that surrounds us.
First of all, I’m glad to be here and I truly think it’s the right time and I’m taking up on more work, trying to help expand Google products not just in Korea but around Asian regions, of which I’ve read will have the biggest growth in the economy world-wide, and it’s only starting, so companies are taking notice and making plans proactively, which is why I’m here after all. There are lots of things on my mind that I want to articulate but one thing I notice around here is the difference in culture and values. For some reason, maybe it’s the limited space like Seoul and Tokyo are very dense cities, and most Asians look the same, more or less, (black/dark hair, eyes), the only thing they can try to look different by showing their status in different clothes, wearing expensive accessories, and sporting dyed hair in the similar sense that America likes to soup up their cars with tires and rims. I think America is more of property-oriented that Americans like to own home, cars, and ultimately, their space. In here, space is almost non-existent and the refuge you can find lies in the space of your own room on some high-rise apartment. So, because of that, Asians really do spend a lot of money on wearing trendy clothes, electronics, cosmetics and to try their best to look different from others and by looking cool.
I’ve been thinking about psychology and identity a lot too because I was born here in Korea but was adopted at age 3. For some reason, I didn’t really think about my Asian identity during the early part of my life because I’ve had communication and relationship with my parents who are deaf like me and we communicate in ASL. My parents never made a deal about my identity except for my birthplace in Korea so I never gave much thought about it. I was just too busy playing Nintendo games or sports. That was till middle school when one kid really teased me abt my identity and made fun of my eyes. I remember it hit the spot and I was quite defenseless because well, that’s how I look and with absolutely no knowledge to Korea, I couldn’t talk back and I was the only Asian in the school so there was no “gang” to speak of. Now, that I’ve looked back, I think I know why he made such a big deal about my identity was because I was doing well in school (had made a perfect GPA in my 8th grade), a varsity starter on basketball team, a winning record in wrestling and an indebted support from my parents who attended my games as many as they could, so he was trying to bring me down and poked fun at my identity.
Nearing the 12th grade in high school, I think that was when I’d started to think a lot about my identity and realized how little I knew of my birth country, Korea. I’ve done everything as best as I could, at Illinois School for the Deaf, from elementary to high school. I was the valedictorian of my class, helped the football team qualify for the state playoffs with a record of 6 – 3 after a combined 0-27 my first 3 years, held a 800×4 relay school record (8:13) in track which still stands to this day. I also remember I did not socialize much that year because I was taking studies seriously in school and had wanted to earn an A in my AP math course at a public school (JHS) with hearing peers (I was only deaf student at that time), which I finally managed to get it. I had gotten a B before that. I suppose it helped to have a good logic that I was able to figure out some problems and I also made additional notes so my math teacher can review and make some comments. Calculus was fun because you can estimate rate, range, and derivatives, of which are very applicable in computers.
I remember there were questions in my mind about my family in Korea like do I have siblings. I wasn’t really concerned about the birth parents because I already have my parents and kind of understood the reason why they gave me up due to my deafness and to have a better life in America, which is a pretty common theme among Korean adoptees and other immigrants. Ironically, it’s also the same reason why I decided to come back here because both my sister and her husband are deaf too. I must confess if they weren’t deaf, I’d be less inclined to come and live here. I recently was in Incheon where I was born so it was interesting to see where I truly came from and thought abt how long I have come so far. When I looked at some of baby pictures that the mother still had, I realized how normal I looked as a baby, just another Asian baby, along with millions of other babies that were born during that time. There is a growing sense of acceptance in myself that I’m from here after all and that’s precisely how we all have come to be.