Today is April 19, 2018. It has been exactly one year since I set my foot back on the motherland, South Korea, since 1999. It’s been one amazing year, not only because I got to travel more than I’ve ever had, but mostly because it’s been a crucial influence in figuring out my identity. Actually, this film I recently watched called Seoul Searching, directed by Benson Lee, elaborates my thoughts better than I could.
Sid, the main character of the film, who is actually playing the director, is uncertain of his identity and seems lost. Long story short, he is Korean-American but doesn’t seem to fit-in in either Korea or America. The only thing he knows of Korea and its culture is the things he absorbed through his parents while living in California, a melting pot of diversity. The extent of the self-identity crisis was probably much greater for Sid than I. I mean he’s supposed to play a teenager and what kind of teen has any idea of anything? Anyways, I did and still do share some of the similar cultural precariousness. In the first two weeks of spending my time in Korea, I think I subconsciously hoped it to feel like home…but it couldn’t have been more opposite. I felt like an outsider because people could tell I’m from America by the way I looked, dressed, and even my demeanor. It was the first time I told myself, “I miss America,” which is when I realized America has become my home.
Kris, the adopted Korean girl in the movie, didn’t plan on searching for her birth-mom. However, in the end, she didn’t just find her mom but it seemed as if she found a missing piece of her identity. At the end of the film, she walks in with the traditional Korean dress called Han-Bok (한복) and you get a sense that she found love for herself, as well as, her heritage. I deeply empathized with her character, in that she didn’t even know what she was missing. There’s no way to know what we don’t know…if that makes any sense. Let me explain. With me having to live this new life in the States since ’99 I realized I have kept my memories of Korea/Asia locked away. Trust me, I love my life here in America and won’t trade it for anything. With that said, traveling back to Korea and other parts of Asia (Hong Kong, Vietnam, and China) have made me realize that I forgot this important piece of my life and how much I’ve missed it.
I think we never truly know who we are (maybe you do and that’s amazing). However, we get glimpses of it through the people around us and the experiences we go through each day. I feel so fortunate to have such moments of seeing who I am and who I want to become. I believe that more of these opportunities will present themselves as long as I continue to learn by reading & traveling, building my community, and keep my eyes and ears open.