Neither Koreans Nor Americans

I recently came across a survey of immigrants in the U.S. The percentage of college graduates among Korean-Americans was considerably lower than for Chinese, Indian, and Filipino-Americans. The average income of Korean-Americans was slightly higher than that of African-Americans and Hispanics, but lower than the average income of other Asian groups. The number of private business owners was very high among Koreans compared to other ethnic groups, but the number of people working for the government was significantly lower.

Some Korean-American parents want to raise their children as Koreans, but this is impossible. Let me share my experience. At first, I insisted on only using Korean at home. But when my first child, Danny, became a teenager I was faced with a dilemma. If I continued to insist on using Korean, my communication with Danny would be handicapped because of his limited Korean vocabulary. I was faced with the choice of insisting on using Korean and having shallow conversations with my son, or using his language and having meaningful conversations. I chose the latter. Even though my English wasn’t perfect, by using it to share thoughts and ideas, I helped him pass his teenage years without too many difficulties.

Not only is it impossible for Korean-Americans to raise their kids as Koreans, even if they could, it would be unwise to do so. If you truly love your motherland, Korea, you must help your children enter mainstream America and become influential people. The modern nation of Israel is able to survive being surrounded by hostile Muslim nations in part because of the influence of Jewish-Americans. They hold high positions in every walk of American life and influence general opinion and U.S. government policy on behalf of Israel.

Second generation Korean-Americans cannot assimilate into mainstream America because they are neither American nor Korean. They are uniquely Korean-American. For the third or fourth generation, things may be different, but for the second generation, it is important that they find their identity as Korean-Americans. I welcome the efforts of some of our church members in teaching our children about their Korean heritage through extracurricular activities.

But helping our kids find their Korean-American identity should not be the goal of our children’s and youth group ministry, because the time to teach them and the number of teachers available are limited. Our goal for our childrens and youth group ministry is to effectively use the available time to teach them right values and right behavior based on Scripture, using whichever language they are comfortable with.

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