Béla has struggled with his Korean identity — specifically his facial features (his eyes), the fact that our neighborhood has plenty of “brown/Asian” kids and he still knows he is the only Korean kid among them (most other Asian kids in our neighborhood are likely to be Vietnamese, Cambodian, or Chinese. If there’s another Korean kid in the mix, they are almost 100% sure to be an adoptee as well), and his fear that he will be seen as a “bad” person if people do not understand the difference between North and South Korea. He also carries some guilt about North Korea’s actions in general.
He may not yet have learned to love his face, but he IS the child of mine who gets me stopped by commercial photographers who hand me their cards and say “That one could pay his way through college if he was modelling”. We’ve never discussed it seriously, but since it only seems to be going more that way — and Béla literally just gets better-looking the older he gets — we haven’t thought about it too hard. He brought it up once, and blew my mind when he said his biggest decision to make, if he attempted to model, would be whether or not he tried to approach work in the Western market or in the Korean market. My kid runs deep. He has said some things about his birth circumstances and birth mother that have also just floored me.
I knew the news about Bong Jooh-Ho’s Parasite before I went to bed last night and Tuck and I had seen it on his birthday.
And I’m glad Béla got some BTS dolls for Christmas, even if they are not his #1 favorite band — to have a selection of Korean faces to choose from in a set of dolls (for boys! Dolls that are NOT just Marvel Superheroes!) was something to be grateful for. (He is making them suits of armor here, out of tin foil and tape — they came in much more stylish outfits.)
I have said before, there are much worse times to be a Korean kid. Béla is among the last of his tribe — where there used to be babies being adopted from Korea to the United States in six-digit numbers per year, for almost half a century, there are now nearly none.
As you see from our featured photo, the issues raised are never too far away for us — the book pictured has been sitting on our coffee table for months, and I’ve owned it for years. There are no answers in books like these, and with this one, even from it’s secondary title you can see it’s a bit dated. But what there is, increasingly, is data — about the contributions that South Korea is making, culturally, to the Western world, and that leads to representation, which is the absolute golden key.