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:
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.
Your Squishy Monster