When I moved to the US, kids at my high school called me Jackie Chan, Ichiro, and Yao Ming. I always wanted to tell them, “I’m Korean, not Chinese nor Japanese” but couldn’t really speak English at that time.
Maybe alienation forces people to think deeply about their individuality. Before I met people who were oblivious to Korean culture, I never imagined my Koreanness could be made fun of by someone else. The moment I realized my identity would stand out, I began asking many questions about my identity.
In Korea, most discussions about Korean identity revolve around nationalism and pessimism. That’s why I find the works of Korean American artists like Lee Isaac Chung and Min Jin Lee refreshing.
Minari and Pachinko feel authentic because they are inspired by the writers’ understanding of their Korean identity. These stories are not about projecting perfect images of Korea. There’s no political agenda. They grew up feeling different from others, and this experience became the creative engine for their crafts.