Diamond Head Cemetery. A Cook pine from New Caledonia. Yellow stars that poured from a tree? Anyone know the name? The ground as sky. The dead slumber. Decades pass. Beloved Mother. In Loving Memory. She loved the sea. Flowerless. Forgotten. This heaven was the toil of stiff hands. The invention of paradise. Lost. Airplane-filled. A single taste. A myth cascades. Rock and soil call the return to dust. Go back to where you came from.
Gods and Pineapples. These two ideas and objects defined my family and many others for a century. This is from a decades long project of mine and so I’ll be posting on this too…
You feel alone and isolated. You feel like you are doing what no Korean has ever done before. You feel trapped between cultures. You feel like your parents don’t understand you. You say, this is because I am a 1.5 Korean American! You don’t get it! These teenagers from 1923 might have understood what you are talking about.
My grandmother Salome Choi Han is the third from the right in the first row. These were the children of the first wave of Korean immigration from 1903-5. The then Reverend Syngmun Rhee selected the students from some of the earliest immigrant families to do a homeland heritage tour of Korea in 1923. My grandmother went and played the flute. My grandfather, Hank Han or Kee Chan Han, not depicted here, was part of the demonstration baseball team. He was a pitcher for Mid-Pac Institute. Apparently the Koreans were very surprised to see these English speaking Koreans from Hawai’i and followed them down the street and pinched them.
Always remember that there are others who might have been there too. You are the first in your family perhaps, to feel what you feel, but hey, there were other 1.5 ers also! Korean Americans have been in the US for many years. I’m really looking forward to delivering lectures and workshops for the young professionals program for the Council of Korean Americans at the end of the month.
Last month, I presented a two-part lectures series for the Council of Korean Americans on the events and personalities crucial to shaping Korean American culture and history over the last 100+ years. I made it accessible to those who don’t know any Korean American history. I also believe the big step we must take is to understand that WE CREATE HISTORY! Record your experiences. They’re historical!
Dr. Han explores the various narratives of “Korean America”, examines how this immigrant community has evolved as it is intersected with mainstream America, and shares how Korean Americans are contributing to the United States and the world. Part I of this session covers 1882 Diplomatic relations between Korea and the US, the early days of immigration, and the Korean War.