It always takes a few minutes to explain my origins to someone I’ve just met. I’m usually bombarded with questions: Wait, so you’re not from the States? I thought you were from Cali… or Flushing or something. Are you Korean or Chinese? How on earth do you speak English so well? You don’t even have an accent! Believe it or not folks, you can actually learn proper Engrish in Asia (ORLY?). My background is confusing though, even for me. When people ask me where my hometown is, I’m usually thrown off by the question. It’s an easy enough question, isn’t it – where you’re from. Anyang? Seoul? Shanghai? It’s one of those.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around a lot – I’ve got more than a handful of countries visited under my belt. And I’ve never been asked this particular question before coming to the States (that’s 17 years of my life): Are you South Korean or North Korean? The first few times, I let it slide. I’m in America now. Most Americans don’t know shit about other countries. I calmly replied, South. However, the more and more I got that question, the more annoyed I got. If I was North Korean, what the hell would I be doing in New York City? Honestly, people. Do you not know anything about the heinous conditions in North Korea? Do I look like a refugee to you? I don’t actually voice these thoughts, obviously. They’re just running through my head before I answer the question. Sometimes I like to fuck with people (especially those who I’m 99% sure I’ll never see again) and say that I am indeed from North Korea. I escaped the grips of poverty and communism through the barren lands of northern China… on FOOT… and instead of heading to South Korea where I’d be granted asylum, I decided out of the blue to make my journey across the world to become one of the (roughly) one hundred North Korean defectors living in the United States. I’ve come to the most expensive city in the country, at that. Just chasing the American dream, you see. You understand, don’t you?
No. No, you don’t. Just… No. How the hell would I have done that? How would that even work? I had to file a ton of paperwork and attend a nerve wrecking interview just to obtain my student visa for FIT, and I speak perfect English (there are plenty of South Koreans who are deemed “not good enough” for entry into the States, I know this because I sat in the US embassy for over 3 hours waiting for my turn and watching people get rejected). It’s actually not that easy to enter the States illegally (despite what the media has you believe). Not all illegal aliens are able to jump the fence. In this case, the fence would be the Pacific Ocean. Moving from a fucked up socialist country to what is perceived to be a “normal” capitalist one should be enough culture shock for a North Korean refugee’s lifetime – I’m pretty sure moving to what is perceived to be one of the “most capitalist” and egomaniacal cities in the world would be a tad bit overwhelming for this hapless escapee.
Alright, that’s enough ranting. Just don’t ever ask me if I’m North Korean, okay?
“DEATH TO AMERICANS” :)