Name: Joseph Hong
Residence: Manhattan, NY
Twenty years ago I went to Seoul to visit family and to see Seoul. Twenty years before that I had left Seoul as a five-year old child. As many Korean Americans probably feel, I think of Korea as my homeland. Yes, I consider myself American, but I am Korean-American.
Seoul has changed a lot in twenty years. This piece of writing documents some of impressions and thoughts about returning to Korea this year, and seeing a new Korea with older eyes. Seoul has definitely grown a lot. There is a lot more urban sprawl, and lots of skyscrapers and tall apartment buildings; many of these are very Western looking. Apartments and office buildings are commonly ten, fifteen, and twenty stories tall.
One of the primary differences between Korea and America is that Koreans have an amazing attention to detail which I don’t think Americans have. The country is clean; very clean. In a city as large as Seoul you rarely see any trash on the ground. When you ride the subway, you are amazed at how clean the system is compared to the subway system of New York City.
Name: Don Sheu
Current Residence: Phoenix, Arizona
옛날식 花奬室 The Latrine
Born in Seoul of a Chinese father and a Korean mother, people have always tried to locate my identity in fractions, particularly in America. Identity is easily fractured into incomplete portions, in the US we describe people as parts instead of complete comprehensive whole identities. Perhaps this tendency was born in the US constitution, in Article 1, Section 2, where slaves were described as 3/5ths of a whole person.
In 1973 we immigrated to the states, that was when I was split in half. First we stopped in Rochester, New York for a brief stint, before removing ourselves to the mighty Pacific Northwest.
In those lazy early years in Seattle I remember in kindergarten being asked, "what are you?" Being a happy child, I'd answer with all smiles, "on my mother's side I'm Korean, and on my father's side I'm Chinese!" Once, though, my parents were at school for some reason, and when my sister translated my declaration for them, they smiled embarrassed grins. My mother then told me, "You're Chinese." She said this to me in Korean. Are you confused?
Residence: New Jersey
Occupation: Banker, novelist
“What possessed you to write a book?” I am most often asked, the reference to “possessed” always accompanied by a smile. “Possessed,” though, holds most of the answer, as the daunting prospect of writing a novel eventually gave way to my growing need to exorcise my demons.
My life was following the lines of a well-drafted script, the author of which was unknown to me. Perhaps it was my religion, or my Korean-American upbringing, or even my adopted notions of Confucianism, that made me stay the course – study hard, work hard and believe I would be rewarded some day. In short, that was the plan – an abridged description of the male, Korean-American, Presbyterian dream.
Then my life ran into 2008, the events of which unraveled all of my hard-earned history.
Julie Young, 38, was born Yoon Ji Hyun. She resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son, daughter and red nosed pit bull. She is a recovering attorney and wanna-be writer/creative of some sort.
"The Magical Number 3"
My children represent a hard fought battle that, thankfully, I won. Thank God and the Universe and Buddha and Allah and most of all, Dr. Chung and the Cornell Center for Reproductive Medicine, that I won. It took six, long and at times blindingly painful years for me to win this all out war against my body. My body, having no fallopian tubes, is unable to make babies on its own. I was born with fallopian tubes but I lost them, one at a time, during my six year battle to become a parent. My body was once able to make babies, in fact there were two others, one in 2002 and one in 2005. But neither baby made it because they both got stuck in a tube (known as ectopic pregnancy.) After they were stuck and continued to grow, the tubes ruptured sending me to emergency surgery to have my tubes and my pregnancies removed.
Too many times along the way I was asked, or worse, told "why don't you just adopt." Note to readers, even though you may be well intentioned in saying such a thing, your words are caustic to a woman battling infertility. And with me, as an adult who was adopted, there was always an added thought, whether spoken or not, "you were adopted so why wouldn't you adopt?" The reason why I would not adopt, and why I fought for six years to have children from my and my husband's DNA, is because I was adopted.