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I am Korean-American

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

A couple summers ago,

a bunch of friends came over to cheer on Korea for the World Cup.

My couch was a sea of red shirts.

The energy was like sparkling water

spilling out of a cup.

I don’t have much interest in sports

but the spirit they generate is like the song of a siren

drawing you in.

I heard once, that in Korean, during World Cup days,

you can hear cheers from apartments over.

No one cares because they, themselves

are too busy cheering.

I’ve never experienced it but I imagine

the cheers at my house were the kind they hear in Korea.

There are times like that

when I know I have a place I belong,

know that there’s a thread that ties me to people.

In some ways

company is more comforting than anything else.

But not in all ways. 

Sometimes, company is like a fly.

Pesky but also 


Impossible to swat away.

Like when I’m in Korea

and someone asks “Where are you from?”

and I say, “America.”

and they start speaking to me in English.

Just because I’m from America!

I want to shout

I can speak Korean well!

But I can’t

because I know that I can’t speak Korean

just as well.

And that leads me to fear that one day I will forget 

one culture and language completely.

Or worse,


I see myself wandering dizzily along the streets

speaking the wrong language to the wrong person

no one understanding.

I can’t stand the thought of losing even one part of me

because I have such pride and love in both.

Is it possible for me to have both Korea and America?

Somehow, I know this

like a whisper I can only sense:

Both cultures are mine.

The one known for burgers

and the one known for kimchi.

Both are mine.

I’m not Korean

I’m not American

I am Korean-American.


Bio: Katherine Lee is a rising seventh grader in Virginia. She enjoys writing all sorts of things, from poetry to memoirs to song lyrics. Katherine can often be found curled up in a chair, reading a book. Some of her favorite authors are Marissa Meyer, Veronica Roth, Victoria Aveyard, and Gail Carson Levine. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, singing songs, dancing, and spending time with her family.

Note: This is the first piece in the Incandescent Summer Studio series featuring mentees' writing.

#IncandescentStudio #poetry #KoreanAmerican

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