Seoul Food Vignettes

Part 1 Pojagi

Pojagi is a traditional form of Korean patchwork quilting using free form or rectangular multicolored squares of linen from a variety of materials. Pojagi quilting uses decorative stitching to make beautiful wrapping cloths, table runners, place mats and other pieces. The seams are different than in regular quilting in that the ragged edges are captured within the seam, making them both seamlessly and other times awkwardly stitched together to form a larger masterpiece.

  • Pojagi
    My Gah-Jok, My Family
    Happy Travels
    Working in the Hood
    My Home, My Communities

Part 2 Bibimbap and Banchan

Bibimbap is mixed rice and banchans are side dishes people share when they eat during Korean meals. The vignettes in Part 2 unpack the misconceptions and stereotypes of Korean Americans. In addition, the stories highlight the lifestyles of young Korean Americans whose experiences may go unnoticed.

  • BibimBap and Banchan
    My Banchan
    Other People's Banchans
    Little d on D
    Young and Restless
    Beef It and Beat It
    Lee Suh Bin
    Gi Shin
    There's Still More
    Mama's Boy

Part 3 Jeon

Jeon is a pancake-like dish made from a variety of vegetables, meats, and seafood.  In Part 3, I provide a closer glimpse of my identity and my reflections looking back on my yesteryears.  The vignettes provide glimpses of how I came to be and the transformational journey I went through to become the person I am today.

  • Jeon
    Choose Your Nah-Moo!
    Drug Lord
    Academic Learning
    Korean Hambeogo
    K-Pop and Dramas
    You're Pretty Only if You Keep Your Mouth Shut
    But It's Not My Fault
    Mirror Image
    My Heart Says Yes, But I Say No
    Flocking to Church
    What Was College About?
    Taking Out Our Ka-Shis

1. Pojagi

I write about my journey to discover my identity and learn how to embrace cultural differences. I begin with a story about my two grandmothers who demonstrated how they could take broken pieces to create their versions of whole masterpieces. In this section, pojagi is used as a metaphor to describe the diverse people living in Los Angeles, and depending on how people perceive each other, communities can unite despite the differences or separate to create segregated communities.

2. My Gah-Jok, My Family

This vignette provides a contextual background about my family. I share how I came to learn how my name was misspelled, how my dad was able to survive in America with $200, and struggle to understand parental respect or the lack thereof as a Korean American female.

3. Happy Travels

I write about my family yearly trips and the exciting time I had when I spent time with them.

4. Working in the Hood

This story is written from the lens of when I was a young girl observing my father work in Los Angeles and experiencing the L.A. Riots in 1992 that affected our family’s financial stability. The story then transitions to my father who was beaten, similar to Rodney King, and despite no one helping him, he chose to live and move on rather than die.

5. My Home, My Communities

I write about my experiences living in three different communities in Los Angeles County, and how I questioned how society defined living in a “dangerous” community. I include a trip walking on the street, being chased by Dobermans, and making friends with Latino students.

6. Bibimbap and Banchan

In this vignette, I write about Korean food, in particular, the various side dishes (banchans) that are included in Korean meals. I share what banchans I like to eat and how my experience eating Korean meals have helped me understand that the side dishes, though they look the same, taste different. These differences represent Koreans, people who look the same but are very different from each other. Later in the story, I compare the people I have met as assorted side dishes (banchan), and my life as bibimbap.

7. My Banchan

My Banchan is about my personal experience growing up as a female and Korean. My mom taught me what it means to be a strong woman, someone who gives rather than receives and helps others move forward in life.

8. Other People's Banchans (Rich Person’s Banchan, Insecure Banchans, and Ka-Shi Banchan)

Other People’s Banchans encompasses three shorter vignettes. Rich Banchan is about Korean men who pay or do not pay for meals. After having conversations with my parents, I learn being rich goes beyond having money. Insecure Banchans provides a glimpse into the lives of Korean Americans and their relationship with their parents that are not addressed in public. Ka-Shi Banchan is a short vignette but has multiple complexities to illustrate how ka-shi (fish bones or past pain) can damage people’s lives.

9. Wangstas

This vignette is about young Korean males who were wannabe gangsters and made wrong choices that affected their futures. Ken was able to make better choices in life, but Jin made one mistake that ruined his college career.

10. Little d on D

Little d is about a boy I knew that spent time with the wrong “older brother.” At an early age, Little d was exposed to drugs, alcohol, and poor decision-making skills.

11. Young and Restless

This story is about Young, a friend from junior high school. He began drinking and smoking due to family hardships. I write about my one incident when I went to his house and he abused me.

12. Suzi

This vignette is about Suzi, who seemed to have a great family but lived in a dysfunctional home. Inside the home, the father was abusive, and she was not able to seek help. She compensated by purging and taking diet pills to alleviate her pain. This story captures the hidden home life of many Koreans.

13. Beef It and Beat It

Koreans come in many sizes and shapes though society perceives Korean females to be thin and small-framed. This story is about Jenny, a not-so-popular girl who lost weight and began hanging out with the bad boys at school. I found out she was bulimic and could not eat meat, which shattered my respect for her.

14. Lee Suh Bin

Lee Suh Bin (“Lesbian”) is a story about a Korean female friend I had in school. I was unaware at the time, but I discovered later that she was a closet lesbian. I write about how homosexuality is not talked about and being a Korean lesbian/gay is taboo in the Korean culture.

15. Gi Shin

This is a personal story of Gi Shin (means “ghost”) who bullied me in school, how she tormented me, and how I was able to stand up to her. This story speaks to the lives of many young females who bully or who bully other people.

16. There's Still More

This story is about Jenna, a high achieving student who focused on attending a top university. Her intensity and drive in school damaged her sleep schedule and food intake. In the end, she attended a top university, but she was burned out by the time she went to college. This story is important to include because many Koreans seek to attend most prestigious colleges and discover this end goal was not what life was about.

17. Blepharoplasty

Having double eyelid and big eyes is a dream many Korean females desire. My mom naturally received a double fold on her eyelid in her twenties and informed me that I would naturally get a crease above my eyes when I aged. Though I couldn’t wait, I write about my personal experience trying to get double eyelids by using tape and glue in high school. After my unsuccessful attempts, I chose to wait.

18. Mama's Boy

The stories in this vignette illustrate how parents may not know their children and not engage in healthy relationship with them. As a result, their children experience family, cultural, and educational pressures that affect their psychological, emotional, and personal well-being. The story then transitions to Stephen, a mama’s boy who was loved by his overbearing mother. Being a Korean mama’s boy is a common yet less acknowledged problem in the realm of unhealthy parent-child interactions.

19. Jeon

This vignette is a life lesson taught by my mother when she made jeon, Korean pancakes. The ingredients used to make jeon are the people and places I have experienced that have shaped my identity.

20. Choose Your Nah-moo!

The vignette is about my experience getting hit–or trying to avoid getting hit–by my mother as a young girl. I question why parents scold or hit their children and then make the promise that I will not do that when I have children.

21. Drug Lord

This is a story about the power I have when I speak. My mother reminds me of the time when I unknowingly poisoned my preschool friends because I bribed them with “candy” that was actually pharmaceutical blue pills. She warns me to be careful when I open my mouth.

22. Academic Learning

Although many Asians are perceived as high achieving students, I write a story about my life and how I came to be the top student in elementary school but later struggled in high school.

23. Korean Hambeogeo

This is a story about my experience eating smelly Korean food in elementary school and feeling ashamed for being Korean. After an argument with my mom desiring to eat American food, she makes me a Korean Hamburger, and to my surprise, I enjoy the blend between Korean and American food. Rather than choosing one culture over the other, my mom’s fusion food taught me to embrace the positives of both cultures.

24. K-Pop and Dramas

This is a story of how I began to appreciate Korean music and drama when my school counselor enrolled me in Korean class as a foreign language in high school.

25. You’re Pretty Only If You Keep Your Mouth Shut

This is a story about learning how I am pretty when I use my words wisely and give life to people rather than hurt them. My mom teaches me to laugh like a female, remain quiet, and learn when to speak.

26. But It’s Not My Fault!

This is a story about forgiving and apologizing to others when I am at fault or when I hurt other people. Although I had believed certain situations were not my fault, I came to learn that I bore some responsibility and needed to forgive and apologize no matter what.

27. Mirror Image

There were two incidences in college when I thought the person across from me was a different person. However, the person was actually my mirror reflection. From these two incidences, I came to redefine who I was as a person and learned to appreciate Korean beauty.

28. My Heart Says Yes But I Say No

I write about my relationships with men or the lack thereof. Although many people around me were in relationships, I was unable to be in a relationship until I was 24 years old. This story explains why I took so long to have a boyfriend, and it provides practical steps to heal from past relationships.

29. Flocking to Church

As Koreans, many families attended Korean immigrant churches. I write about my experience at church and my search to find God.

30. What Was College About?

I write about the experiences I went through in college; I struggled academically, learned how to get along with different people, and discovered I needed healing from my past wounds.

31. Taking Out Our Ka-Shis

The last vignette is a Project SPICES presentation I had conducted with students and adults at my nonprofit organization, MAPS 4 College. I reflect on my personal journey of how I healed from my past wounds, and then share parts of my work and experience with the group of participants to help them overcome obstacles in life and heal from their pain.

too many
can't count
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