If you are new to Korean culture and live in the United States, you may think of Korean American culture as being something like what you see on Korean dramas.  The truth however is that Korean life is nothing like what you see on a Korean drama, and the same goes for Korean Americans.  Life in the United States has it’s challenges for many people, and Korean Americans are no exception.  But what are some common issues that Korean Americans face that you may not think about?  Here are a few issues that Korean Americans deal with.

Who Are You?  What Are You?

Are you Japanese or Chinese?  These are just some of the questions that Korean Americans deal with on a regular basis.  In fact, unless you are in an area that has a high Korean population, many people would not guess that an Asian person could be of Korean decent.  Perhaps one of the most annoying things you can tell a Korean is that they don’t “look Korean”.  A Korean person is someone who is from, or who’s family is from Korea, as well as a person who speaks the Korean language.  It is not a look or a trait that makes someone Korean.  And for older Koreans who remember life under Japanese occupation, asking them if they are Japanese can sometimes be an insulting thing.

Hatred From Other Asian Americans

Koreans do not always have the best reputation, even when dealing with other Asian Americans.  Koreans have developed a reputation in some areas that is so negative that some Asian Americans feel it is an insult to call them Korean.  Exactly what reputation is this?  Being rude, vain, shallow, self centered, materialistic, prejudice, bigoted, greedy and judgmental, to name a few things.  (All of this will be talked about in a future post.)  One Korean man who spent the first half of his life in Korea admitted to me that he didn’t even want to do business with Korean Americans.  The truth is you can find these kind of people in every race and walk of life, not just in the Korean American community.  Yet this reputation follows Korean Americans around and leads to some nasty hatred from other Asian Americans that can be hard to overcome.

The Model Minority Myth

Of all the things that Koreans go through, this may be the most frustrating for many.  Koreans are viewed by some as people who worship White people, who have no pride in their language and culture and will do anything for money and acceptance in United States.  If you actually know Korean Americans, you know this is a lie.  (At least to a big extent it is a lie.)  While Korean Americans do feel that one should learn the language and culture of the country that the reside in, and want you to do the same if you go to Korea, they do not turn their backs on the Asian community and work hard to teach their children the Korean language and the history of Korea.  The truth is there is nothing “model” like about about the behavior and attitudes of most Korean Americans.  Korean Americans are just being themselves.  If you don’t like it, you won’t be able to change much about it.

These are just a few of the things people say about Korean Americans that are not true, but are believed by many people.  False stories, rumors and things stated in the media makes life harder than it needs to be for many Korean Americans.  But by educating oneself and speaking to Korean Americans themselves, the truth will come out and life will get better for everyone.