korea korea korea, america, america, america, where are you.
memories of a teenager, of going back home, summers in korea, splitting my life into two, oh america, oh korea, oh new york, oh seoul. oh places. oh what is it like to live elsewhere. oh what is it like to separate the strands of parents, family, country, city, culture, childhood. to realize that you grow up with places, and so you can never go back to a place without going back to your age. that place when I was 12, or 18, or 25 going back to korea. seoul. my seoul, not your seoul, not their seoul.
my seoul doesn't exist anymore except for me, because it was not just a korean seoul, it is the eternal 'do I belong here' question, manifested, not in a 'i don't belong here' but in a 'I am here, sitting, thinking about how I have been here and not here, and I am not quite fully here, and I have always not been quite fully here;
this has always been me, this arriving-towards a country, leaving-away a country, and during college and onwards it was possible to naturalize it, to get comfortable with it, to arrive at new york as if it was not AHMERICA but of course it is.
korean-american isn't it, actually, I wonder what that's like. I wonder what it's like to be korean-american. I am neither, some sort of suspension of disbelief, and I say this without any self-pity (if anything, it's a neutrality bordering just barely on pride), it's a kind of magic trick, a whole generation's reckoning slid between my parents and I, a bit for them, a bit for me. a generation slid halfway.
these words are mine, so if you come here and read this, goddammit, if you misinterpret what I say, then this is ALL ON YOU, do you understand, this is my place, with my words, and if you don't understand what I mean then this is all your fault, okay? if you misunderstand here then so be it. you don't understand. that's on you. go to another page, website, text, avert your eyes. you came here. you tried to read. you got it right, or probably got it wrong, it's on you.
here, these are my words. they work for me. these are codes, processes, unlocking memories that are mine and that you'll never have.
adjacencies. overpasses. poi from a frozen fridge in the 운동장. going back home, taking the bus at 잠실역. 줄 서있던 기억. everyhing2 days. 드래곤라자 and 바람의 마도사. moreover the sense of splitness. taking that bus along the highway passing by factories. thinking about the aesthetics of things. phases in which I would be so distasteful of korean urban aesthetics, not knowing the _________________ I was carrying around, or knowing it and wrestling it not as racism but as culturalism.
the familiar thing is thinking about who I am and taking a bus home, a subway home, walking by myself. moments of solitude. going to galleries, museums, centers a year later. korea changes, and it doesn't.
when you visit a place every six months, the city slides by like a stop-motion animation, things are both unexpectedly similar and unexpectedly different. one year everyone's standing on the right. one year the buses are a different color. going from a home, to another home, to eventually sliding to becoming somewhat of a traveler. isn't this familiar? walking the alleyways of 종로3가 like some sort of ritual. here I am, as a practice. when life starts to be less in rhythm, in society, sliding through in my own practice. what is this like. what is this like.
what are the doors closed when I talk about the inability to share this? when I visit korea I am returning home, not returning to a homeland. how will I speak in Korean in the future? what will I write in Korean? what is that like? I have not left and I have not returned; that much is clear; I have not left and I have not returned.
어디가, 넌 어디가니, 어디로 가니, 누구랑 가니, 누구를 만나러 가니
언제 돌아오니, 언지 돌아올거야, 언제 가니, 언제 갈거야
나중에 보자, 내년에 보자, 많이 컸네, 공부는 잘하니
어떻게 할까, 누구를 볼까, 누구랑 말할까
한달 정도는 한국에서 살아볼까.