America or Korea? | Teen Ink

America or Korea?

June 3, 2009
By Anonymous

Have you ever been slapped in front of all your high school classmates? Unfortunately, in the archaic, authoritarian Korean schools, my primary school teacher deliberately humiliated me by slapping me hard across the face. As the president of my class, one of my responsibilities was to list on the blackboard the names of everyone who talked when the teacher was not in the room. When the teacher returned, the teacher would slap the students who talked across the face. Ordinarily, I took my responsibility seriously and obediently wrote down my classmates’ names to preserve the silence and decorum of the school environment. However, when a different teacher walked in, a teacher known to punish too hard and painfully, I decided to save my friends from his hard strokes, and I erased all the names. I had to take their punishment myself.
This practice might seem ridiculous and excessively harsh to American students, but the incident typifies the stagnation and backwardness of Korean schools. Not only is talking not aloud, even asking a question in class is not allowed. Many teachers fear questioning since they may have to admit a lack of knowledge on certain issues. A Korean school is not a place to ask questions; instead, it is a place to absorb knowledge from lectures and aged textbooks. However, I need more from my learning environment than senseless silence and minds afraid of questioning arbitrary rules and old theories.
As the son of relatively liberal parents, I was encouraged to become involved in discussions, which led made me to understand that questioning cultural guidelines is not inherently wrong but absolutely necessary. Defying the religious and cultural guidelines of the bulk of the Korean people, I decided to sacrifice the acceptance of my traditional values and the traditional parts of my family to build a successful future.
While my personal identity is in many ways a reaction against Korean culture, there are some attributes of Korean culture that I have incorporated into my identity, like having respect for one's elders, having self-discipline in both religious and educational life, and believing in a religion that gives me the confidence and determination to achieve my goals. With these personal qualities combined with my personal determination and my questioning nature, I am certain that I can find success in Western Culture. Moreover, because the United States has a much better developed educational system equipped with state-of-the-art technology, I believe the United States gave me the opportunity to achieve my full potential, to speak out against injustice, and to seek the truth. I prize my freedoms in this country very much, and I would never dishonor them by not being active.
Although I am a member of the Korean culture, my identity grew out of my desires for freedoms unique to Western culture. Therefore, I believe my identity is not a result of either Korean or American cultures but out of a personal desire for setting my own limits.

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