Korean Liberation Workshop

The first Korean RC Workshop took place in Warwick, New York, USA, in concurrence with three other Asian workshops (South Asian, Chinese, and a Japanese-Okinawan/General Workshop). There were ten Korean Co-Counselors from Canada and the U.S.

The first evening I found Betsy Hasegawa next to me. She had made the sign that was posted on the outside of our cabins that read, “Koreans.” The meaning was not lost on us of the significance of someone of Japanese heritage being an ally to someone of Korean heritage. Our histories have led our two peoples to forget that we get to have each other close and be each other’s best friends.

The goal for the weekend was for all of us to fall deeply in love with each other, to allow ourselves to be deeply loved, and to give each person the space to show himself or herself to the others in as real a way as possible.

We looked at who we are as people of Korean heritage. We have a long history of being invaded by other countries—China, the former USSR, the United States, and, most distinctly in our history, Japan. Our history is one of kings and queens, revolts, Koreans holding other Koreans as slaves, and being divided by class and language. We get to work on this internalized oppression by trusting each other and by holding up honesty, integrity, and courage in our relationships. 

We tend to work ourselves too hard and often try to do just about everything at the same time. We discussed the benefit of choosing to go deep in one direction and noticing what feelings come up as a result.

A useful direction is to just “want.” A lot of our parents came out of wartime and from a country of predominantly poor farmers. Much of their attention was on survival and upward mobility. Some of us have distresses of hopelessness, enduring, and hanging onto thoughts of suicide. When asked how many of us had ever thought of suicide, nine out of ten folks raised their hands. 

It is important to know the basics of our history. A lot of our history, however, is hidden. We can start our liberation movement by talking to other people who are of Korean heritage. We can ask questions about what life was like during World War II and be ready to listen. We can build relationships. This is Korean liberation. 

Many of us have patterns that set us up to go at locomotive speed, then fall over. We need to do the basic things for ourselves first before we can move liberation forward. We get to use Co-Counseling and our intelligence to assist people to think well about us specifically as people of Korean heritage. In general the best direction allies can take with us is to slow us down, make us notice that folks are around, and be willing to learn. We tend to operate on top of terror, and we need to slow down enough to notice it is there.

Our relationships with each other as Korean Co-Counselors are important as models for relationships with people of our heritage in the wide world. It is important to grow our constituency around ourselves locally. This means reaching out to Korean-heritage folks, getting our old hurts restimulated, discharging, and figuring out how to build relationships and communities.

I met with the Korean men during breakfast and encouraged them to notice each other. I could see how each had been able to hold onto something dear and serene and good. On my first trip to Korea in July 1998, I saw men and boys being affectionate with each other in ways that would be considered homosexual in the United States because of the way closeness has been sexualized here. (I was told that affection between men in Korea was diminishing because of the Westernization of their society.)

At one point I saw half the workshop walking up the hill from the pool like a gang of best buddies. Towels were wrapped around their hips, and they were drinking in the fresh open air, the sun, and each other. They were laughing and sharing about their time at the pool and the synchronized Korean swim-team antics.

On Saturday we held the “reunification (basketball) games.” It was great fun.

To and from meals we sang, hummed, and hollered.

At the farewell circle everyone cheered wildly for the organizer, HyoSung. He then threw the attention to me, I threw it to the next person, and it took off from there. Each person got a chance to be cheered for.

Kyoungho Koh
Information Coordinator for People of Korean Heritage
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA


Last modified: 2014-09-18 17:17:52+00