2015

(1) Love and Life: 1.75 Gen Raising Hapas

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The prize of their first international trip is set for Korea to the one who can utter the most coherent sentences in Korean.
  4. Each year’s birthdays and New Years are not complete without that auspicious envelope of money from the Korean side of the family.
  5. Any success story printed about Korean-Canadian/American individuals is sure to make it into dinner and car-ride conversations.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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