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Eunsuh Beck

Updated: Apr 28

Written by Cailey Beck

Growing up in Los Angeles’s Koreatown as an awkward little Korean kid was probably one of the best things that could have happened for me. I was about eight when I moved down from the Santa Clarita Valley to LA. It was a beautiful town (from the pictures I’ve seen), but there was only one other Korean girl in my entire elementary school. At that point, I had never really seen or been around many Asian people other than my extended family (and that one girl). I wasn’t necessarily bothered by this, but it was mostly because I didn’t know that it could be any other way. And then, we arrived: I looked out my window at Wilshire Blvd, and stared. There were Korean people everywhere. Walking their dogs, putting money in a parking meter, going into restaurants and shops- I was astonished. I asked my mom if we had come to Korea while I was asleep on the freeway. She laughed and said no, then took me to what would become my favorite place in the world: Boba Time. Mango slush in hand, dripping condensation onto my shoes, my mom and I walked down a street lined with what seemed like a never-ending row of low, plaster buildings, painted in tacky colors with barbeque scented smoke wafting out of their shoddy windows. I knew how to read a little bit of Korean back then, and I gazed dumbfounded at sign after sign of Korean I couldn’t quite make out in varying shapes and colors. We walked until we got to a dinghy looking bungalow-type building, and when we opened the door, a hot blast of air hit us in the face. The restaurant was packed to the absolute brim, which was quite a feat considering its size, and I looked around at the customers. There was a woman feeding her screaming toddler in one corner, a couple of teenagers in the other, and an old man red in the face, yelling at the other red-faced man across from him. And they were all Korean. 

I think I’m a pretty down-the-middle Korean-American; not super American, definitely not a FOB. My English and Korean are split too; maybe not right down the middle, but close. English is easier most of the time (because everything is in English), but I can read, write, speak, and understand most Korean. Korean was actually my first language – when I started preschool I would come home everyday bawling because I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying to me. Eventually, I figured it out, obviously, and luckily my Korean stuck around, too. I’ll speak to whoever can understand me in Korean, and whoever can’t, in English. I dream in English about as much as I do in Korean, and sometimes I have to translate words from both ways in my head when I’m talking. Being bilingual, I feel that I am both fully Korean as well as fully American. I feel that I can look across the cultural divide into both worlds. I sort of have a double-negative-ethnicity within myself: not fully American, not fully Korean. In this way, I’m neither this nor that; instead, I’m both.

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