Many second-generation Korean American dads vow they won’t be like their own stoic immigrant fathers. Yet once they have families of their own, they realize that’s easier said than done. The English-language father school tries to heal those wounds and engage men on their evolving role in the family.
story by ELLIS SONG and SEJIN KIM
photographs by WILLIAM JONES
It’s a sunny Saturday in May, and deep in the mountains overlooking Lake Elsinore, a group of bleary-eyed men are inside a retreat center, sitting around tables with Monster Energy drinks and bottled water in hand. They are here for a special retreat, but many of them didn’t get much sleep the night before, thanks to a challenging “homework assignment.”
“My initial reaction was … Oh, God, why?” said a man at one table.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” said another.
The assignment: writing a letter to their fathers.
Welcome to a scene from the most recent iteration of Father School. Originally created in the 1990s as part of a religious movement in South Korea to help transform stoic patriarchs into caring and expressive dads, the program hit these shores in 1995 to address many of these same issues with Korean immigrant fathers. However, while the program has primarily focused on first-generation Korean Americans with the movement’s famous “boot camps,” conducted in Korean, there has been an increasing demand for a school for the next generation of fathers.
This past May’s Father School retreat in the Cleveland National Forest, not far from San Diego, Calif., was conducted in English, and directed at 1.5- and second-generation Korean American dads—and even those who plan on being fathers one day. Fifty-eight men, mostly Korean Americans with the exception of a handful of Caucasian, Chinese and Japanese American participants, attended the retreat, with many admitting they were forced to go by wives, relatives or friends —a consistent theme with Father Schools worldwide. Continue Reading »
“There is a power of empathy through the hugging and physical contact,” said Choi, who noted that, without developing that depth of bond, the program would not be effective. “We can laugh and cry with each other because of the presence of brotherly love.”
They can also share their own weaknesses, and that experience can actually be quite empowering, said Choi, who graduated from Father School two years ago. At the time he attended the program, Choi said he thought he would just get confirmation that “I was a good father.” Continue Reading »
by ETHEL NAVALES
I first became interested in K-pop with the release of DBSK’s Hug in 2004. Like any young fangirl, I blew up my social media sites with pictures and videos of my newfound love. At the time, however, as a young Filipina American teenager, I received an overwhelming amount of criticism from friends.
“But you’re not Korean?”
“Why are you into this? You don’t even speak Korean.”
“Korean music is really weird.”
“But you don’t understand what they’re saying.”
Fast forward nine years and the K-pop genre has become a part of the worldwide phenomenon known as the Hallyu Wave. The very same people who questioned my interest towards K-pop back then are now jamming to Big Bang and chastising me for not hearing the latest songs immediately after their release.
Times have changed and this weekend was quite the eye opener. I knew that a lot of my non-Korean friends were fans of K-pop, but when a Korean co-worker said, “Most of the hardcore fans are not actually Korean Americans,” I assumed she was joking.
I was obviously proved wrong. Continue Reading »
by ADA TSENG
For everyone who’s grateful for the recent rise of minority faces on American television, it’s important to note that behind every Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy, every Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews in Lost, is a casting director responsible for pairing these actors with the unforgettable roles that will go down in television history.
Keli Lee, who has been casting TV shows at ABC for more than 20 years, was on her way to law school when she landed a fortuitous college internship that introduced her to the entertainment casting industry. In her first week working for Phyllis Huffman, who often did casting for Clint Eastwood’s films, Lee operated the video camera that captured the auditions for the Academy Award-winning 1992 film Unforgiven. From there, she eventually worked her way up the ladder, and as Executive Vice President of Casting at ABC, Lee now has a corner office with a view and spends her days looking for the next new star.
Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the States as a toddler, and while her father stayed behind in Korea for work, her adventurous, road trip-loving mother would move her young kids to a new state every six or seven months on a whim.
“Up until I was 13, I never started or finished the same school, so I met thousands of people from around the country,” says Lee. “It forced me to socialize and understand people, and ultimately I think that’s how I got to be good at what I do. I’m searching for people and learning about their emotional core.” Continue Reading »
Embodying the spirit of the 1963 March on Washington, African American, Korean and Jewish artists convened for a special intercultural concert to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., and pay homage to his message of peace and unity—the relevance of which still resonates 50 years later.
Several prominent Korean and Korean American musicians performed at the Aug. 18 event, titled “Symphony of Brotherhood,” held at the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School in Los Angeles.
But as much as the concert was a celebration of the legacy of King, who incidentally had a deep appreciation for classical and operatic music, the combination of African American, Korean and Jewish artists was also a deliberate move to try to heal past wounds, according to John Malveaux, the African American founder of MusicUNTOLD, the educational nonprofit that organized the concert. The concert’s title is a reference to a phrase King used in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and it became the inspiration for the multiracial line-up of the event, which included Grammy Award-winning African-American bass-baritone Mark S. Doss, Korean American pianist Phoenix Park-Kim, Jewish virtuoso flutist Laurel Zucker and African/Japanese American violinist Annelle Kazumi Gregory, among many others. Continue Reading »