Understanding identity, key to connection
I just started learning Korean language and history. However, I have been conditioned to think, feel and speak in an “American way.” Suddenly, I don’t recognize my true self. How can I ever achieve harmony, resolution and productivity between the two worlds? (Anonymous)
DEAR ANONYMOUS: I offer my deepest condolences for your loss. I understand your frustration and regret.
As a person lives out his or her life, it is impossible to ignore one’s origin.
The disappointment, anger and confusion you feel may stem from the circumstances your Korean roots were denied and replaced with total assimilation and acceptance of American culture. However, it is not too late to get in touch with your past and discover your roots. Through this discovery you can restore the sense of pride and importance of your Korean heritage, and help through the identity crisis that is afflicting you.
Once you achieve that point I feel that you will easily and comfortably live in both the United States and Korea. You would be, in a sense, integrating the best of both worlds.
The Korean government and the people will never forget adoptees such as you. I hope that you will find strength in your time of need and overcome your struggles.
DEAR DR. P: I am a 50-year-old Norwegian man living in Korea. I have been dating a 45-year-old Korean woman who lived in the United States for 15 years. I want to get a sense of cultural norms regarding romantic relationships.
She insists that we are friends and that kissing has to be put off for a year or two. Does “friends” mean anything different in Korean culture? Also, how do you think people feel about marrying Americans of non-Korean heritage? (Anonymous)
DEAR ANONYMOUS :We can’t talk about love affairs uniformly, because not only cultural differences but also personal characteristics influence them.
It will be most important in order to get her affection to understand her history. It is possible that her perspective on things is Westernized as she lived in the U.S. for 15 years.
Try to understand her emotions and perspectives on life and relationships through conversation, instead of pushing her to love you. Through this process, you can build mutual trust, and she will permit you to get closer.
In my experience, I have seen many cases where foreign men are more favorable to marrying Korean women. I must say I am not sure about how many Korean women think about marriage with someone of non-Korean heritage. There might be individual differences also, but as the proverb says, “There are no boundaries in love”. If you try to love her sincerely and with your whole heart and soul, she will accept it. Until that time you need to love her more spiritually than physically.
Park Jin-seng is a psychiatrist who runs a clinic for foreigners in Seoul and operates the personal therapist forums on www.lifeinkorea.com. Please submit questions for Park to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the hotline at 1588-4276.