I was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Canada before I turned 3. According to Rubén G. Rumbaut, that makes me a 1.75-generation immigrant.
I have six children, all who are born in Canada to me, a ‘pure-breed’ Korean, and to their dad who is of Indian and European decent but born and raised in Canada. According to the latest terminology for mixed-race Asian children, that would make them ‘hapas.’
With no Korean relatives in town, several failed attempts at attending Saturday morning Korean school, and having a mother with kitchen-Korean language proficiency, how will these hapas own their Korean heritage which is rightfully theirs?
I will share with you some ways that I’ve maintained over the years to ensure that my children celebrate fully their 50% Korean-ness:
- Since babyhood, Korean terms of endearment– pretty one, puppy, calf, poop-pot, ugly-born, etc. (without translation, of course)– accompanies my motherly affection and cooing.
- Korean food is usually the choice menu for that after-school famished-state, or on each of their birthdays, so that their associative memories of things Korean bring them warmth and pleasure.
- The prize of their first international trip is set for Korea to the one who can utter the most coherent sentences in Korean.
- Each year’s birthdays and New Years are not complete without that auspicious envelope of money from the Korean side of the family.
- Any success story printed about Korean-Canadian/American individuals is sure to make it into dinner and car-ride conversations.
- The friends of my children are used to seeing my Korean heating mattress splayed on the ground surrounded by low Korean black-lacquered-mother-of-pearl furniture; as well as being invited to sit on the floor on top of Korean bamboo mats around a knee-high table for a meal with rice and various side dishes.
- The sounds of a wailing K-drama actor with the repeating background music of a beloved K-pop ballad live harmoniously in our home alongside CBC Radio One programming, stories from The Moth, and TED Talk presentations.
- They now know to take their biggest appetites and their best respecting bows to any Korean-community event or Kim-clan gathering. Further, instead of a blank face response to the slew of Korean thrown at them, they will now smile and simply say, “Neh” (polite form of “Yes”) to every question.
- Their mathematical skills have improved from breaking down their ethnic mixes for every stranger who asks what they are: 1/2 Korean, 1/4th Indian, 1/16th Norwegian, 1/16th Belgian, 1/16th German, 1/16th French.
That which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable in the Korean culture, I intend to keep passing onto my children growing up in multi-cultural Canada.