Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | korean
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Scooter Braun, the management guru behind Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, today announced he's signed Korean rap artist Park Jae-Sang, better-known as PSY, the dude with the huge viral video hit, "Gangnam Style" (see above). The goofy, annoying techno-dance thumper with the horsey-straddling giddyup choreography is unavoidable -- with more than 107 million views as of this writing, it's become... Every once in a while, people ask me about the name of my blog, because they only hear the word "Nikkei" when it's used for the Japanese stock exchange. "Nikkei" is also so the word used to describe people of Japanese ancestry outside of Japan. I'm a Nikkei-jin, or Nikkei person. When my blog first started out in the 1990s as a column in Denver's weekly Japanese community newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Jiho, its publishers, Eiichi and Yoriko Imada, suggested I call the column "Nikkei View" since it reflected my perspective on pop culture and politics. The name stuck. In the years since, I've come across "Nikkei" a few times as a term for who I am -- mostly on research projects such as the International Nikkei Research Project, a three-year collaborative project involving more than 100 scholars from 10 countries and 14 participating institutions including the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in LA. There are organizations that use the term, such as the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, and the blog "Nikkei Ancestry." Now there's another "Nikkei" site, which is republishing some of my babbling from this blog. In 2005, JANM launched Discover Nikkei, which is a gathering place for stories about Nikkei-jin from all over the globe, not just Japanese Americans but also Japanese Peruvians and Japanese Brazilians (two countries that have very large Nikkei populations), and every other country, as well as mixed-race people of Japanese ancestry.

These adopted kids are learning traditional Beijing opera dances at Colorado Chinese Heritage Camp. The Asian American community is a diverse world, and not just along purely ethnic lines. There are mixed-race Asian Americans, generations that all have different views on culture and identity, and also a thriving Asian American adoptee community. But adopted kids aren't always connected to their root heritage. The New York Times last week ran a well-written story interviewing Korean adoptees about the challenges of finding their identity. The article was based on a report on trans-racial adoptions by the Evan E. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which concentrated on adult adoptees who were adopted as children from South Korea. Focusing on Korean adoptees makes sense because, as the report states, "South Koreans comprise the largest group of internationally adopted persons in the U.S., and adoption from South Korea into the U.S. has a longer history than from any other nation; indeed, 1 in 10 of all Korean American citizens came to this country through adoption." Angry Asian Man and Linda of 8Asians both posted thoughtful reactions informed by their Korean American perspective. Most notably, the report found that a staggering 78% of respondents considered themselves white or wanted to be white when they were children, and also that:
Racial/ethnic identity was of central importance to the Korean respondents at all ages, and continued to increase in significance into young adulthood. Sixty percent of them indicated their racial/ethnic identity was important by middle school, and that number grew during high school (67%), college (76%) and young adulthood (81%). Based on their overall scores on the Multi-group Ethnic Identity Measure, Korean adoptees had a stronger sense of ethnic identity than did White respondents, but with caveats. While being equal to Whites in agreeing that they were happy about being a member of their ethnic group and feeling good about their ethnic background, they were less likely to have a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic group, despite identifying more strongly with it. They also were less likely than Whites to feel welcomed by others of their own race.
There are a lot of fascinating data points to mull over in the report, and whether you're interested in adoption, Asian American identity or trans-racial issues, it might be worth downloading and reading the 111-page PDF file, "Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption." The "Culture Camp" reference caught my attention.

Pho has evolved over the years, from its invention in 1920s Hanoi to its popularity in the U.S. today. When the soup, with rice noodles and meats served in a hearty broth, first arrived in the stateside, the restaurants catered to mostly Vietnamese diners, like an exclusive club. As non-Vietnamese discovered pho, the restaurants became more inviting, and the diners more diverse. When we first started going to pho restaurants, we weren't always treated very warmly, because we were outsiders -- clearly not Vietnamese. These days, pho restaurants have evolved. We're welcomed as regulars at our favorite neighborhood pho spot, Pho 78, and all sorts of folks enjoy pho. Even Denver, not exactly known as an Asian American mecca, has dozens of pho restaurants, many with the odd names including nonsensical numbers. Pho-Yo! is the next evolution. When you step in you might not even think it looks and feels like a typical, funky family-run pho restaurant. The difference starts with the menu: it’s an Asianfusion combo of the popular Vietnamese noodle soup, pho, and the popular dessert, frozen yogurt.

Erin and I got to see a really interesting traditional Korean dance and music performance last week. Think about it -- you've seen taditional Japanese dancig in kimonos, and heard lots of traditional Japanese music, with the wood flute, koto and taiko drums. You've seen Chinese dance and heard Chinese music. And at events such as the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, audiences have been intorduced to the traditional dance and music of Bali, Vietnam, Philippines, India and more... but not that much from Korea. During the early years of the CDBF, a troupe of Korean seniors used to perform, but their act was mostly 20 minutes of the large group in traditional dress, circling the stage to no particular rhythm and randomly beating on drums. The festival has also featured a solo Korean dancer who did a slow and meticulous mask dance. Abd last year during the Miss Asian American Colorado pageant, one contestant performed a Korean fan dance with a bunch of cute kids helping out. I'm not sure why, but there hasn't been much exposure, at least in my world, of a lot of traditional Korean performance. Maybe the noisy, sometimes chaotic nature of traditional Korean dance just doesn't appeal to Americanized tastes. Whatever the reason, though, we got plenty on Saturday, Sept. 6, when the Korean Consulate General in San Francisco sponsored a rare U.S. visit by a Korean dance troupe, Festive Lands, for a performance at the DCPA’s Temple Buell Theater titled “Colorado Forever.”

Erin, our friend Joe Nguyen and I dined the other night at Korea House, a popular restaurant in Denver (actually, Aurora, the eastern suburb, where the Korean community is concentrated). The dinner was part of an arrangement by Korea House to advertise in Asian Avenue Magazine, and we were there to write a preview of the eatery. We had the full spread of Korean barbecue -- Bulgogi (marinated sliced beef), Calbi (marinated beef shirt rubs, cut off the bone) and Spicy Chicken -- as well as some Soon Doobu (seafood tofu stew) and Bibimbab (meat and vegetables served with spicy sauce over rice). The food was good (I'll post a link to the advertorial when it's up) and the experience was fun.