April 22nd, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Opinion: Koreans are 'good,' 'bad' and everything in between

Editor’s Note:  World-renowned chef, author and Emmy winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Los Angeles' Koreatown in "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” with self-described "bad Korean" Roy Choi and David Choe. Grace Lee is a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker of fiction and documentary films that have explored identity. Her new film is “American Revolutionary" about Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs.

(CNN) - Over the years, I’ve envied the achievements of the “good Koreans”: their Ivy League credentials, their fluency in the Korean language and their dedication to their golf game and families - no matter what.

Even into my 30s, I regularly pondered whether it was too late to go to medical or law school so I could provide for my parents in their twilight years, or at least give them something to brag about to other Korean parents.

I went to graduate film school instead and made films on topics such as zombies, street food and electoral politics. My latest documentary, "American Revolutionary," is about a 98-year-old Chinese-American woman in Detroit who devoted her life to the civil rights and black power movement.

My career may sound exciting to the average reader. But these pursuits do not come with job stability or a 401(k). Bad Korean.

At the same time, I know many “good Koreans” who confide to me that they wish they could have chosen a different path. They tell me about their dreams of making movies. I tell them I wish I had their benefits and health insurance.

They are incredulous when I tell them my parents never pressured me to make a ton of money, that they instead encouraged my sister and me to be independent and seek happiness on our own terms. I tell them that I wished they had meddled a little more – maybe then I could have gone to an Ivy League school!

Perhaps one of the hallmarks of being Korean-American is that we always think we could be better. No matter how good we are, we are not good enough.

Most of the second-generation Korean-Americans I know – myself included - think of themselves as “bad Koreans” – or not . I took an informal poll of some friends before writing this piece.

Though this random sampling includes successful artists, directors of nonprofit organizations and college professors, none of us think we are “good Koreans”.

The reasons are varied. We don't speak Korean. We’re adopted. We’re only half Korean. We’re gay or lesbian. Our parents have no idea what we do because we pursued our passions - art, the social sciences, community organizing - instead of becoming doctors, lawyers or investment bankers.

We don’t go to church. We married or cohabit with non-Koreans. Even worse, some of us aren’t even planning on having kids, effectively halting the proliferation of more “good Koreans”.

Reading over this list, it appears that many of us could benefit from therapy, one more thing that “good Koreans” don’t need.

I explored all these ideas in "The Grace Lee Project," a personal documentary that aimed to unpack the model minority stereotype of Asian-Americans. I set out to prove that all Grace Lee’s (many of whom you might recognize as “good Koreans”) were not interchangeable, but learned that it is our individual complexities that define us.

Reducing ourselves to being good or bad fails to recognize that we have multiple identities. It’s a bit like talking about the Axis of Evil, and we all know which Korea is the “good” Korea, right?

After making that film I needed a break from thinking about my Korean identity. I pursued other topics, but now that I have a child I have been wrestling with this question all over again.

His father is not Korean, but my son knows that he is. Korea is the place where his grandparents came from, where PSY dances to “Gangnam Style.” He is obsessed with one day flying on a Korean Airlines A380 jet. His identity and his feelings about who he is will evolve as he becomes an adult, just as it did for me.

I’m Korean-American. But I’m also a woman. A mom. A Midwesterner. A filmmaker.

On any given day, I’m good at one or two of these identities and bad at the others.

I hope the world that my son grows up in can expand upon what being Korean means. That Koreans can reflect the diversity of our community: from fourth generation Americans who don’t speak the language to undocumented Dreamers. From Miss Koreatowns to transgendered artists. From adoptees to people mixed with other ethnicities.

That Koreans can be good, bad and everything in between.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Grace Lee.

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Filed under: Asian in America • Ethnicity • Race • What we think • Who we are
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Yang

    A high percentage of koreans push themselves and will do anyhing to achieve sucess, money and power without caring to stop and think on real hapiness, I for instance do not trust people who portray themselves as humble when around the rich and despot when around the common. Too bad being that their ancient cultures were more inclined to find the perfect spiritual balance. money is not everything in life. For some korean people the thought of being poor can make them take their own lives. (South korea has one of the highest percentages of suicides on the world) On the other hand some koreans excel in all aspects of life. But people... money is not eveything.

    June 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. funreading

    It was fun reading this article.
    I often find that first generation Korean-Americans living in the States could be more traditional in different ways than people living in Korea today. I know a number of Koreans and Korean Americans, and yes, everyone is different. Things are changing in Korea: doctors, lawyers are not always preferred job, I think, but I still hear that those are preferred job in _some_ Korean American families in US. Or perhaps I have a biased sample of Koreans that do not represent "typical" Koreans. What I am saying is that the author has a point.

    "Good, bad, and everything in between" could contain million different types Koreans, but I see the point of the author selecting these expressions. Well, as the Korean-American culture evolves in US as American culture, the diversity of expressions will grow, too – hopefully in a "good", peaceful, and happy way.

    My parents always supported my dream, and I will do the same for my kid. I am an American, a Korean American, and I see nothing wrong with saying that I am Korean American. American culture contains many different cultures, and Korean culture is one of them, and I like it. I especially love to taste and learn about all other cultures in the world.

    April 23, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Korean God

    It is not a Korean thing. It is an Asian thing.

    April 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • name

      its not even an asian thing..its an immigrant thing
      most immigrants whether asian or african or european..only see few professions as worth pursuing..they shy away or atleast try to shy away from professions that are more "personally fulfilling"..and more so "does it give you a guaranteed income and used many other places??..if it doesnt then its time to reconsider.

      Those professions are often the lawyers, doctors, engineers ..something like women's study masters, not so much

      June 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • Murica

        ummmm im going to say its every parent's thing even if you are not an immigrant. Successful happy children is our goal but women's history or whatever is not what we parents, no matter your ethnicity, really want to pay for. Even Americans want to brag on their kids and not have them live in their house as we want our kids successful and also to enjoy our golden years. I don't care if we all grew up on Oprah and nurturing self-esteem....the fact of the matter is even Oprah through her turmoil is one of the richest self made ladies in the USA.

        June 14, 2013 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. Nikki T

    I sure hope she finds a way to be happy

    April 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. betty nelson

    My daughter-in-law is Korean and she is fantastic. She and our son has given us to beautiful grandchildren. EJ loves her father-in-laww and spoils him rotten and now our granddaughter is following suit. We are truly blessed when our son was in Seoul and fell in love with EJ and now 15 years later it just keeps getting better. TRULY A GREAT KOREAN NOT JUST A GOOD KOREAN.

    April 23, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MarkD

    So you're like everybody else, only different. Not always meeting the expectations of your parents, having it better in some ways and worse in others. I've heard this song. Like the rest of us, a few are great, most OK, and some spectacular failures.

    Welcome to life. You don't get out alive.

    April 23, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don't Speak For Me

    Who decides what's a 'good Korean' or a 'bad Korean' anyway? Actual Korean people, from Korea, would laugh at the definitions. Going to church makes you a "good Korean?" Becoming a doctor makes you a "good Korean?" BAHAHA please. Maybe in your narrow point of view.

    Do me a small favor: Next time any Korean-American wishes to speak about their sociological experience growing up (which, for the record, I think is valuable) don't forget to add the "-American" after the word "Korean." Because for all the ways you speak about "being Korean," you sure don't speak for me. Stop misrepresenting an entire country of people you frankly don't understand, and stick to what you know.

    The sooner the Korean-American community can get over themselves the better.

    (It would also help for the K-A community to realize that the experience of having upwardly mobile values is not a uniquely Korean experience – that's the immigrant experience, welcome to The Dream.)

    April 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grim Visage

    This is one of the biggest problems in America, no allegiance from it's citizens, especially new citizens. Everyone is an African American, Polish American, Irish American, Iranian American, etc. What about just an American? No one is saying to discard your families past culture, but we have too many people in this country more concerned with where they have been instead of where we are going.

    My great grandparents came from Italy, but what does that mean to me? Nothing. I am an American and I am a strong individual who doesn't need my families past to feel connected to this world. Be what you want to be, don't be what you think you should be because that is what your parents or grandparents think you should be. This is a bigger problem for humanity, too many people going through the motions not even being sure why, but their culture tells them to.

    Most of the time I feel humans are a failure, we showed promise and now this quagmire of terrible religions, humans feeling lost in a sea of faces, and a battle for planetary domination, which will be won by those that breed the most.

    April 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lenny

      even with your 'individuality', you're no better or worse than anybody else. you just feel good about yourself that you have 'individuality. What comes out of it? Nothing, Nada,Zilch.It's amazing how people with 0 achievements complain about how other people live their lives.

      April 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSK

      Actually most 2nd generation typically say they are "American" or "Born in USA". The problem is like this writer, others are generalizing for them because 2nd generation just blend into society and don't have banded voice. This applies to all cultures who comes to America for that "American Dream". She missed the mark entirely by generalizing her feelings rather than facts. Everyone's their individual, so don't generalize the society or culture using your own lens.

      April 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • lemery214

      I disagree with what you say. My ancestry is mostly Scandinavian (specifically Swedish) and then the second largest is English. I cannot say I am necessarily proud of my background in that I individually had anything to do with it, but I accept and revere my past. My past not ending with me, but those who are my family. They are after all where I come from, and that link is important for me to hold onto for me to understand who and where I am. Where we came from is just as important as where we are going. The reason we are able to go the places we go is strictly because of those who preceded us.

      I'm a person who belongs to this world, and I only happened to be born in America just like my ancestors happened to be born is Sweden or England. But I still have a connection to my past and through my past I have a future. Is it wrong for me to know who I am?

      April 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • realoldguy

      You know why? Because being a Real American only means you have to talk and act just like white people. And not everybody on this planet yearns to be a nice white person, who are really only nice to each other,

      April 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      While Americans with European heritage or even African-Americans are usually never asked "where are you from?". Yet many 2nd generations Asian-Americans in this country are always asked that question. It's not that Asian-Americans don't assimilate and think of themselves as an "American". In this country, we are constantly reminded by society that we will always be a hyphenated Americans...

      May 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Married to a Korean

    Very nice article and it made me chuckle. It is this level of introspection and brute honestly that makes Korean values so endearing. I married a Korean-American who came to this country as a young girl with her family. I absolutely love the culture, love their honesty (my mother in law will tell me I am getting fat, and then feed me until I am sick), amd love their passion (particularly with sporting events). I am a white male of Irish decent, and while I am sure my in-laws would have preferred my wife marry a Korean, they never made me feel like anything less than family. I have heard the Koreans referred to as the Irish of the East due to their passionate nature and short tempers, and I couldn't agree more. Throw in the American sense of individualism with Korean family values, work ethic and culture and it is easy to see why so many Korean-Americans are successful, whatever their endeavor. I simply love this culture (and food)!

    April 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChenZheng

      yeah another white male getting married to Asian women and not the other way around. Asian parents feeling their status has up-ed by marrying a white guy...bc all this culture mash up

      April 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • Big Shiz

        I got a few Asian friends married white girls.

        April 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • Big Shiz

        And if that comment wan ment for me chen zheng I'm black,Irish and native. My son has ancestors from every continent people live on(except south America).

        April 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • ChenZheng

        only meant for Asians, if you are black or brown Asian chicks won't mingle with you but if you are white their pants are auto down

        April 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • Big Shiz

        I'm Brown and engaged to a Asian. That might be true for a lot of adopted Asians but not for Asian women that come from immigrant parents.

        April 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
      • ChenZheng

        brown as in close to white or brown as in close to black?

        April 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • Big Shiz

        I'm mixed,black,Irish and Lakota. My skin is brown,no one mistakes me for white.

        April 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • Big Shiz

        I understand what your getting at. But I think more than being predisposed to getting with white boys Asian women in general can have a issue with materialism. It's a cultural issue. That being seid I think Korean women are the least that way. Less than even white girls.

        April 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • GetOverEthnicity

        You don't know Korean women very well, do you?

        April 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
      • Big Shiz

        Well enough

        April 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
      • Christine

        Shame on you! you are totally misjudging everything in a very brief, short comment. This only proves that you may be one of those ignorant people who could not overcome "White guy marry Asian lady" stereotype. and I assume that you are likely to possess some portions of Asian blood(in terms of ethnicity) as well by your last name? then, it's like you are demoralizing yourself and your culture as well.

        June 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Shiz

      Korean women are no joke. There the least materialistic of Asian cultures. Homemade chapchee and seaweed soup are the best.

      April 23, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • SR

      "I absolutely love the culture, love their honesty (my mother in law will tell me I am getting fat, and then feed me until I am sick)"

      This is so true! my parents do this to my husband too!! LoL!

      April 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. True This

    Good, bad, and everything in between...Sounds like every race of people in every country everywhere. We need to re-install common sense in places like California, where the people red around the neck and mind have brought some bizarre old sweeping generalization tea klux klannery back to town. The thing to do is treat people on a person-by-person basis. 1 person doesn't represent everyone anymore than all people with the first name John are John Malkovich.

    April 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCLaw

      If you truly are looking for people to instill with common sense, and end the bad habit of making sweeping generalizations, particularly of those with red around the neck, I recommend you start by looking in a mirror. Would it be wrong to claim that all people like you hide your lack of IQ behind an unearned sense of smug faux intellectualism? Maybe it would be better to say you express your false intellectualism under the guise of non-existent, yet ingrained sense of, victimhood? Maybe, just mraybe, it would be better to simply call you a hypocrite.

      April 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bo

    Grace – deep breath.. embrace your bad-korean-ness because if you are bad, then as far as Im concerned, bad is freaking awesome.!

    That said – the good-bad issue applies to every race in the world.. the real question and conflict is that maybe we as village humans suddenly have evolved to a point where surviving and breading is not really our top priorities anymore.. its really a huge pain in the rear type luxury. is it not.?

    April 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Morris Fishbein

    Michelle Rhee ruined it for all of you.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CSK

    What a farce of article. First the generalization based on very limited understanding. Also, this is typical change in any immigrated families. First of all my son think of himself as "American who has Korean Heritage" not as Korean-American. This is most of what 2nd generation feels today which I totally agree as coming from 1-1/2 generation in my case. I want the kids to feel proud of being an American who has parents who are Korean. As any kids in US, today's kids are not as driven as previous generations as they are not as poor. However there are many driven because they want to not because someone told them (like their parents). Everyone wants to succeed, 2nd generation American Koreans are no exception however the need for success is not as great as in previous generations for sure.

    It would help this reader did more research in terms of what does it mean to immigrate into different country (this is the backbone of America where different culture keep replenish change for good). Korean families who immigrate to USA is no exception to other countries who wants the American dream.

    I am just flabbergasted on generalization.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Andrew

    Very interesting article and well written. I definitely relate to you in some ways. I am a Korean who was adopted at a very early age and because of that have no memory of Korea, being adopted, or know the language. Therefore, I was raised basically American, yet I know and have learned lots of Korean customs and know a fair amount of the culture. I went back to Korea in 2001 (and got stuck there for 4 extra days due to 9/11).

    Likes – Very family oriented, some of the nicest people you will ever meet, very hard working and smart individuals, values good moral ethics, and if you are a 'good Korean' gives you special treatment.

    Dislikes – It is ALL about the family.....in other words, you live for them and they do not like individuality, do not like confrontation.....you can't talk with them or challenge them (or older people), but more of a yes or no sir/mam, you are considered 'bad' Korean if you do not have a high paying job, if you disrespect them they find it very, very hard to ever give you respect back

    Obviously, every culture and human has good and bad, but being adopted and not knowing the language and not having the education/job like they want....they never will see me as a 'good Korean' and probably only see me half Korean. That is okay because their pride is what blinds them to reality at times and since they would just ignore me anyways, it is nonsense to talk to them about it. Don't get me wrong, I take pride in being Korean, but just like any other race it also embarresses me too. That is why when things go bad I will say I am American, but if America is not good in the public spotlight, I will say I am Korean....LOL

    April 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. notify me

    What a superbly written article. I realize most non-Koreans don't understand the intense drive of some Koreans. And that drive is admirable and is producing incredible products and services both in South Korea and abroad. But it should be stressed that finding a balance, which you seem to have done, is the best way to enjoy your life. As a Christian I don't agree with some of your choices, but I also see many people working to death to be the apple in the eye of their parents. Parents that are just human, that have made many mistakes, that often value a life lived as necessitating a lot of financial savings, which is often in their best interests. We should stress financial responsibility, but not to work mindlessly to the detriment of our families who may never see us because of our insane workload. I find the Korean culture fascinating in so many ways. I have to admire their work ethic, yes, but most I meet are not satisfied in the slightest with their lives because they are striving to meet the goals of others. Your article points out the importance of living for ourselves (responsibly) instead of being puppets of others. You're a fine writer and I hope you write a lot more on this subject. The average North American could learn so much from reading your work. The principles discussed here are endemic in every culture to a degree but Korean products are leading the world in many areas so naturally our focus in often why that's happening. A most fascinating and intriguing culture indeed.

    April 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  16. hex2323


    You will be happy to know that all races and nationalities fell the same way. We all look at our friends within our own ethnic community and wish we could have been 'more like them' whether financially, lifestyle, or in my case, I wish I had at least one child. Perhaps this obsession with being more like our peers is more pronounced in the Korean community, but I can assure you it's pretty bad no matter what your background is!

    We are all trained since we can remember to strive to be better. Better than our cousin, better than our brother, or even better than ourselves when we are the most successful. Parents want the best for their children, and sometimes that translates into pressure to succeed on the child. And lets' face it, inside each one of us, that child is still in there trying to please the parent.

    It sounds like you've been successful in a way which few could replicate. I'd say the uniqueness of your success makes it much greater than the commonplace successes. We have enough Doctors and Lawyers and too few Film Makers. Bravo to you!


    April 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Yolanda

    very nice!!!

    April 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  18. ieat

    oh whatever. Seems to me that the good and bad both turned out alright.

    April 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  19. rejinald

    this is ridiculous

    April 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Wow

    I am half mexican, half caucasian. My wife was born in korea but raised in S. California. Our kids are then half korean, and part mexican and caucasian. My own experience being mixed was that you are judged mostly by your actions. There are plenty of demographics that you can check off: race, height, weight, income level, favorite band, favorite food, favorite sports team etc etc. But in the end those are just things you use to associate with a group. Those do not make the person who you are. My mother would tell me "son, your name is _____." That is who you are.

    April 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • urbanleftbehind

      Daughters?....I'm sensing some second wife material!!!!

      April 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Nina

    Kalbi! mmmmm good!

    April 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  22. AVN

    I prefer to assume best intentions. An alternate theory based on my own informal poll:

    – Native Korean parents now living in America are formed by hardship. Only 50 years ago, Korea was poor little country, colonized repeatedly. Some of them were Korean war refugees, all of them have some experience of the war. Some of them came to America with little resources and the hopes of providing a better life for their family.

    – When you come from hardship, you want your children to avoid hardship. Desperately. The most practical way to seem to do this is via "Ivy League schools, doctor, lawyer, I Banker".

    – Korean families sometimes don't communicate well. It is a culture, like many Asian cultures, that avoids confrontation. Sometimes to state something plainly and matter-of-fact is rude. It is more polite to infer.

    – Parents should be saying to their kids "I only want you to be happy. I really think you will be happy if you follow this track. But ultimately it is up to you and I will support you either way." But they don't. Thus, sometimes the interpretation is "Do this and you are good. Don't do this and you are bad."

    April 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  23. frank baum

    i think in every culture you have all types of people...my girlfriend and her sisters are kind happy koreans , but their father who was born in korea treats them like dirt because they aren't males...one daughter moved across the world and hates him, the other fortunately rarely sees him..good/bad korean? no just a selfish little man

    April 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Not Korean

    I think much of this discussion relates to Korean parents that arrived in the US during the 1970s and 1980s, as much as anything. This is a group culturally stuck in the mindset of that period, remaining far more conservative than today's Korea.

    April 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  25. jdoe

    We need universal health care, so that people aren't stuck with their job because they need the health insurance. So that more people can strike out and start a new venture and pursue their dream.

    April 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  26. naerok

    I don't think this phenomena is really that unique. i think any 2nd generation race away from their home country will feel this. Koreans are prideful and in a way depend on respect, which drives this "good korean" notion. Also, if you weren't in the army, you're not Korean and never really will be. plain and simple. I see it similar to a fraternity. Every male in Korea has gone through it. We may have an understanding of language and culture, but definitely do not and never will understand or feel as deeply about it as someone raised in Korea.

    April 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Mediocre Korean

    Well...as 1.5 gen naturalized-US citizen-Korean-American, I can say that all parents (Korean or not) treat their kids similarly – they want their kids to be happy and prosperous – and will "force" the kids to become something that the kids do not want to become. I think it's up to the kids to make up their own damn mind and do what they want to do, despite all the external pressure. I know I did. In the end, there are "no parents who can triumph over the kids" (as the old saying goes).

    We should stop blaming the parents to force you to become something that you did not want to do.

    April 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Human

    I don't get articles like this. I guess people still don't understand that it doesn't matter what ethnicity you are, there are good, bad, and everything in between in all races, since we are all human and have the same weaknesses and strengths.

    April 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • True Talk

      I agree. The article is vauge and general. Seem to be focused on Koreans when this could apply to everybody. I hope the movie is better than her article writing.

      April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  29. whatzup

    Jeremy Lin did pretty well for himself and still starting in the nba

    April 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatzup

      psy got a hit in the US
      Lets see if any other koreans have made it ... can't think of any.

      April 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • youdontknowjack

        about 70% of lpga golfers?

        April 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Two cents

      Btw, Jeremy Lin is Chinese American.

      April 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • kim

        Jeremy Lin is Taiwanese-American

        April 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Weez4

    I grew up on the out-set of the Korean culture since I believed I was a "bad Korean" since I am only half Korean, I barely know the language, I am a female and I went to college later in life. It was tough being the first born and the first to be born in America. There were a lot of pressures placed on me and it was normal to be compared to other Korean kids who were "so wonderful". Now that I am older, and so is my mother, we have a wonderful relationship and I know that following the Asian sense of being good isn't always the right way. I have a great life and I now consider myself a good person – not just a good Korean.

    April 23, 2013 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  31. Good Korean

    Good article. I am a good Korean (Ivy league, doctor) just as you write. My brothers are "good" Koreans too (doctor, pastor, ivy leagues). BUT, I was almost an art major, always think about art and movies, etc. Wish at times that I could be doing something more "creative." Essentially, I agree with your point that 2nd gen Koreans are never satisfied, we can't win, we want to either be MORE Good or MORE Bad. sigh.
    BTW, if you send your kid to a liberally minded Ivy League school, they come out with some non-traditional values that don't sit well with Korean immigrant parents. Be careful what you wish for...
    (PS. Since I don't play piano, violin, or have a blackbelt in TaeKwonDo, I might be a BAD Korean).

    April 23, 2013 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Your experience isn't unique to Koreans. Born in CT, Italian dad and Czech mom, banker, almost majored in writing, and wish I could be making movies. Your experience is American, certainly not limited to one race or ethnic group.

      April 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Foxe2002

    it is good to see someone write about what we see has an half korean... My mother is from korea and her family all still live there I am frist generation born in the state my father is also irish amrican... I was lucking enough to know my grandparents and famly... now I am married and have a son and he too has the chance to have his grandmother and also the korean family... but it was hard there still issies where your not good korean because of being a communictaion and being a girl my son on there other hand is the apple of her eyes because he the one that supposed to be what i did not become.... Thank you for writing this and like to here more information and ideals

    April 23, 2013 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  33. 30-something Good Korean

    Great article and start to what could be a very engaging conversation. I think it'd be a good exercise to sit with your variety of friends/those you polled and just have an open forum (or venting session? 🙂 ). First off, I commend your parents' mentality to raise you and your sibling to become successful independent individuals even though your paths were not along those of the stereotypical "good Koreans". I am proud of my own parents who have put their sweat and tears into giving both my sister and I a fabulous future but think back to see the struggles they had and the dissonance they must have felt while raising me (textbook "good Korean") and my sister who went against the grain. We both had our own struggles and therapy is definitely not solely for those who are "bad" or in-between. Good Koreans could use it just as much, maybe even more... Whatever the upbringing or outcomes of our children, I also hope that the world can evolve even more to encourage and embrace the "good, bad, and everything in-between".

    April 23, 2013 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  34. Kanageloa

    He's just one idiot. All cultures have lots of idiots. No big deal, at least at the moment.

    April 23, 2013 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |