Jinhee and I were up in the Seattle area spending some time with family and friends. Our first stop after arriving at Sea-Tac International Airport was visiting my grandmother, on my mother’s side. She lives in an apartment complex for elderly people near the International District in the heart of Seattle, and up on the 7th floor, we chowed down on some tasty Naengmyun — Korean cold noodles — and swapped stories about how my family survived during the “Civil War,” what Westerners call the Korean War.
For those of you who don’t know, my food tastes are a dead giveaway to my cultural background. While doing a pastoral internship overseas, my senior pastor asked me about my favorite Korean food. Without hesitation, I said that I loved Duk Mandoo Guk, or Korean dumpling soup. And with my reply, I unknowingly gave away my national identity. The senior pastor then asked, “Is your family from North Korea?” I didn’t realize until then that dumplings and cold noodle soup are specialities of the North, and I dearly love them both.
So I’m North Korean. Or at least of North Korean descent, though born on the north side of Chicago. But it’s weird to think I’m connected to Kim Jong Il in some way. More than that, being of North Korean descent also means that my family history is really quite interesting, and the stories I heard that cloudy afternoon in Seattle rooted me even more deeply in where I came from and who I am.
(To be continued… )