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Stephanie Drenka


A Korean State of Mind

A Korean State of Mind

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Annyeong! Today’s post is dedicated to two of my favorite things… Korean fashion and Korean food. When I was growing up, I felt absolutely zero connection with Korean culture. In fact, I actively avoided anything Korean-related, because I felt like I needed that distance in order to be accepted within the not so diverse town of Southlake, Texas.

As an adult, and after having become heavily involved in Asian American and Korean issues, visiting my motherland and reuniting with my birth family, I am incredibly proud of my Koreanness. I go through periods in my life where the feelings I have about my adoption are more palpable. Some days, I will be so busy that I forget it’s even a part of my story. Other times, like yesterday– I feel drawn to Korea or the community.

Yesterday’s yearning for Koreanness came on the heels of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe being in the United States. It brought me back to 2007 when I was fighting for the passage of House Resolution 121 and immersed in Korean history and politics. HR 121 called upon Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as “comfort women”, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II. The resolution passed unanimously in July of 2007. I flew to LA for a celebration with the other committee members as well as survivor Lee Yong Soo.

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Despite the language barrier, I formed an intense, immediate bond with Lee Yong Soo, who I call halmoni (grandmother). At the time, I had been unable to locate my birth family. Lee Yong Soo never married or had children of her own. We were tied together by Han and the reality that our birth country had failed or abandoned us in some respect.

It saddened me to learn that halmoni was in the States again hoping to be here when Abe finally gave an unequivocal apology before Congress. His speech came and went, with no acceptance of responsibility for Japan’s actions.

Sometimes I struggle with feeling so disconnected from Korea. Wishing I could spend my Wednesdays with halmoni and the other survivors/supporters in silent protest outside the Japanese embassy. Sit down for a traditional Korean meal with my birth family once in awhile. I’m fortunate to have a supporting husband who understands that when I have a craving for Korean BBQ, it may be about more than kalbi. Feeling like I needed a way to be connected to my heritage yesterday, I threw on a shirt from Korean fashion retailer Allegra K and we had dinner at our favorite all-you-can-eat Korean buffet, Sura Korean Bistro. It might not have been a trip to Korea, but for an hour or so, I felt a little closer.

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6 comments

  • Denise

    April 30, 2015

    That’s very interesting– I never knew (or maybe I did but I didn’t pay enough attention in Asian History class) that the history with Japan and “comfort women” also happened outside of the Philippines. Until this day our country is still suffering from the aftermath, but thankfully there are support groups and some sort of housing for the survivors. I met a few of them back in high school for an outreach program and the stories I heard, I can never forget. I can’t even imagine what they went though. I do know what you mean about feeling the need to reconnect with your roots from time to time. I struggle with it as well, but thankfully DFW’s Asian community is growing so it’s not as hard to have some sort of escape/immersion once in a while 🙂

  • Stephanie Drenka

    April 30, 2015

    Awww– the Filipina Lolas. *sniff* It’s definitely wonderful the support the survivors have been given. I visited one of the houses when I was in Korea. It’s a bittersweet sisterhood that they’ve formed. You’re so right about the community here– it’s nothing like when I was in high school. (Probably because I never left my bubble) but it’s really nice to have options to engage in our culture!

  • stephen mortimer

    April 30, 2015

    Hey “Kid” … you look great !! This post fills me with JOY… this is the REAL YOU !! No frivolous stuff !! You are at your best when the “nitty meets the gritty” !! :-))
    I have two thoughts for you to consider…. (1) as an american (you are one too) study what the Japanese did to THEMSELVES from 1912 to 1945…how they treated their own troops and civilians (2) inform yourself deeply on how modern South Koreans treat escaped Northerners…. finally remember that JAPANESE are KOREANS (not even distant relatives) What compares with the way the Northerners treat themselves ??

  • Valery Brennan

    April 30, 2015

    So much love for this post, I love when you share about your Korean heritage!

    Also these photos are awesome! Good job, Holden! 🙂

    • Sevi

      April 30, 2015

      I second everything that Valery said. I love it when your passion and love for your heritage shows. <3

      Oh and I see Holden trying to step up his photo game after my few snapshots at The Vintage House almost put him out of business 🙂

  • Rick

    May 6, 2015

    Japan really terrorized/abused most of Asia during that period. They need to acknowledge that. Of course the same is true for the US and all countries regarding inhumane actions. I remember reading that before the internet got in the way, the Japanese had white-washed their history books and kids raised during the ’70s and ’80s didn’t know about Japan’s imperialist past.

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