feat. a Korean-Canadian is a blog series highlighting Korean-Canadians and their experiences, perspectives and thoughts on their identity as Korean-Canadians.
This blog features Grace Lee, programs and events officer at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. She manages endowment programs at the centre.
Grace, you grew up in many parts of the world. How has this effected how you define your identity?
Looking back, I’ve spent half of my life in Korea and the other half in the UK, US, and Canada. Spending my teen years in Korea had a huge impact in forming my identity. That identity is something that was consistent throughout all my life living in different countries. I consume Korean media, speak Korean at home, eat Korean food and celebrate Korean holidays.
Do you mostly identify yourself as a Korean then?
Though I strongly identify as a Korean, I have a strong attachment to Canada. Canada is where I spent the majority of my adult life. In the past few years, I’ve been working in an organization that focuses on topics that are core to Canadians such as sports, government, social change, policy, and community. Because of my work, I feel like I have a better understanding of Canada as a whole. On that note, I do identify myself an active citizen (not just in a legal sense) and a member of the Canadian society. Actually, I recently became a permanent resident of Canada from being a temporary resident (student, worker etc.) for almost nine years.
Congratulations on becoming a permanent resident! I have a question about your name. You chose to have an English name. Why did you make that decision instead of using your Korean name and which name do you connect with more?
My Korean name is Eunhye, which means grace in Korean. In high school, a friend of mine asked whether my Korean name “Eunhye” had a meaning. I said “Grace”. Since then it became my name. I connect with both names depending on who is calling me. I don’t think I will ever give up my Korean name though, even if I ever become a Canadian citizen.
Eunhye is a beautiful name and it worked out well that the direct translation is an English name. My last question for you is, in Canada, do you feel pressured to present yourself a certain way because you’re Korean?
I do carry a sense of responsibility that I am representing Korea and Koreans in Canada which probably affects how I present myself. On the other hand, there also are different cultural expectations within the Korean community here. The unique cultural and generational characteristic that this community carries are different from that of the community back in Korea, which adds complexity.
Thank you, Grace for the interview. That is a very interesting point about the differences of Korean communities. If you have thoughts about the differences, please leave a comment.