Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Korean American students who don’t feel comfortable sharing some Korean culture outside the home. Especially their Korean names, A lot of times, kids tend to avoid telling friends and teachers their Korean names.
When asked whether he was embarrassed because of his Korean name, Valencia High School sophomore George Kim told JSR, “Yes, I do get embarrassed when I tell people my Korean name. But it’s not because of my actual name. It’s because of the reactions that usually come after I say it. I get a lot of weird face expressions and laughs. I don’t understand why it’s so funny though. It’s just who I am.”
Cecilia Kim, a sophomore also from Valencia High School, shared similar opinions with JSR. “I really don’t like how some people react when they hear my name. They attempt to say it and end up failing terribly. ”
So are kids embarrassed by their Korean names?
Yes and no. For the most part, Korean American kids don’t mind their actual names. Most kids have accepted their Korean names as part of their identities, whether it be their first or middle name. What they dislike is the feedback and attitude that they get from peers. This feedback can be mistaken to be degrading and rejecting. They feel excluded and alienated from friends and classmates ignorant of Korean culture. They may not believe that they are “American enough.” They feel foreign and uncomfortable. They forget that America is a nation of many nationalities, and bend down to the superior, “classic,” and “original” white culture.
Which they shouldn’t. It is not justified that other people should react differently to cultures different from their own. However, Korean Americans should be able to counter-act with more pride and should not be so easily beat down. It is not enough to accept their Korean name. It must be embraced.