Welcome to a new column that I’m very excited about: Korean Wife Camp!
I’ve never had much of a culture of my own. I come from a Greek and Euro-mutt background if you trace my blood lineage. I don’t belong to any religion. I’d say that culturally, I relate most to having been a born-and-bred Chicagoan. And believe you me, I had a thrilling time indoctrinating Paul into my world via Italian Beef sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs, deep-dish pizza, and a city/skyline tour when we spent 2 weeks in the ole windy city last summer (and gained about 10 pounds each! So. Worth. It.).
But Paul is first-generation Korean-American. His parents immigrated here just before he was born, with no family or friends in Los Angeles to rely on. And after his father abandoned them both when Paul was just a baby, his mother had to work multiple jobs to support her in raising Paul, all while trying to learn English. And she did a BOSS job of raising him, by the way. She is a true hero of a woman and mother.
As a result, Paul’s primary language growing up was Korean. And to this day, when he and his mom get together, they speak Korean to each other. My Umuni (Korean for Mother in law) Michelle does speak English quite well (Paul’s stepdad Edgar is from Argentina, and they speak English together at home), but it’s clear that she’s much more comfortable speaking in her native tongue, and spends most of her free time with Korean friends. Fun fact: Michelle is an amazing ballroom dancer and scratch golfer – both skills she took up after Paul left home for college, to distract her from her sadness that he had moved out. She often stays out dancing until the wee hours, partying it up with her girlfriends in Koreatown. So cute, you guys.
Koreans have a huge amount of pride in their culture and it’s preservation and legacy, after having defended against many years of Japanese occupation and attempted assimilation. As well they should! I was heartbroken to learn of the atrocities the Koreans faced. The way they have repaired the country in the years since is utterly remarkable and speaks to the distinct resilience in their nature.
I have completely fallen in love with and have great respect for the Korean culture, so it’s very important to me that I learn as much as I can about it, to support the cultural legacy through our growing family by learning the language, preparing their foods (oh my god, the yummy foods!), teaching our future children about it, and taking them on trips to get to know their extended family there. My first trip is coming up this October when we spend 16 nights in Seoul as part of our honeymoon! I can’t wait!
Traditionally in Korea, when a son marries, his wife spends time with her new mother-in-law, learning her recipes and other trade secrets of being a good wife. I plan to mine Michelle for lots of her best recipes and will happily share them here!
And in preparation, over the past year, I’ve been learning, researching, practicing, exploring and trying as much as I can to become more schooled and comfortable in my position as the wife and 며누리 (daughter-in-law) in a Korean family. And as the future mother of 1/2 Korean children. And I figure, I’m not alone in this world… so I’ll share my journey, resources, and (best of all), recipes here. Thus: Korean Wife Camp is born!
Stay tuned… the first installment is coming up shortly!