Mom and Dad on their wedding day in traditional Korean wedding hanbok
I am a second-generation Korean-American who has never been to Korea. My mother immigrated from South Korea to Queens, NY when she was in high school. My father's family escaped from North Korea when he was young and lived an abject poverty in South Korea. He came to Brooklyn, NY when he was in his twenties. Since coming to America neither of them have been back. I've often wondered what kind of cultural understanding I have as a Korean if I've never been "back to the motherland", so to speak. L and I have talked about this at length. L is second-generation Sicilian-American. We both agree that we want our progeny to have a good understanding of their ethnicities, but how do we do that when we feel as though our own cultural and ethnic experiences are not authentic because they've all occurred in the United States? It's interesting to think about.
This is why my first destination choice, above any other place in the world, is Korea. I want to visit with my family and for us to experience our familial history together - to see my cousins whom I've never met, to visit my grandmother's grave, to see where my mother grew up, to stand as close to the DMZ as possible while holding my father's hand, to hear about long forgotten memories that will come up from my parents' minds because of a specific smell or sound. I want us to explore the countryside, hike the mountains, sit in the hot springs, and dip our feet into the sea. I want to do this before my parents are too old to travel for long distances and before my brother and I acquire even more responsibilities that will hold us to one place.
This is what I wish for my family.