The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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My Korean Boyfriend
He said I was too American
Sue Chong

My boyfriend Kevin and I went out for a year and, during that time, we fought until we got sick of it. We fought about the stupid things all couples fight about, but the main thing that came between us was something that other couples probably don’t have to deal with. We constantly argued about whether I was too Americanized.

Kevin and I both came to the U.S from Korea five years ago. Although we had this in common, we had different points of view on everything. He would ask me why I couldn’t be like other Korean girls. If I were a “real” Korean girl, I would listen to him when he told me to do something, depend on him for most things, and think his way instead of my way. When I didn’t agree with him, we would have another fight. To me, he was too Korean and too narrow minded. He refused to accept any culture except his own, and he always thought his way was the only way.

I eat Korean food, I speak Korean, I have respect for my parents as Koreans have, I celebrate Korean holidays and traditional days. I even joined the Korean Club in school, so that I can keep my customs with my friends.

But since I came to this country, I have come to love certain customs from other cultures. For example, I see the way my Hispanic friends greet people with affection. They kiss and hug when they say “hello,” and I love this. (In Korea, people are much more formal; they just shake hands and bow to each other out of respect.) So I started kissing my friends on the cheek too.

image by Rich Johnson

Kevin didn’t like this, and he told me so. He even asked me to stop it. I didn’t want to, so I did it anyway but not as much. Later on, he told me not to kiss and hug other people. I asked him why, and he told me that he didn’t like it and that other Koreans didn’t act the way I did. He couldn’t accept it.

Korean men like to tell their wives and girlfriends what to do. Kevin would always tell me how to dress and how to act in front of others. He wanted me to stay next to him all the time. I would complain that I was not his little toy and that he couldn’t just order me around.

When I would go against his wishes, Kevin would say, “Why are you so Americanized?” I didn’t know how to respond to that. He said I must be ashamed of my country and my culture to act the way I did. I was shocked, and it hurt me badly. I was not ashamed of my country or culture. I am proud of being a Korean. I just want to accept other cultures, too.

I can’t deny that I sometimes act like an American, trying to be more independent and outgoing than other Korean girls. But I still act like a Korean, too. I want to go with the flow, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t like my own culture. I am trying to balance two cultures. Through my boyfriend, I got a chance to think about who I really am. I realized that I am a Korean and an American, too.

Sue was 17 when she wrote this story.

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