This weekend, my friend returned from a month-long stint in Korea,
working on a research project and participating as a speaker at the
She brought back for me the Korean Vogue’s 10th Anniversary book. Now, I knew that my friend Jane had
been featured in Vogue, and when she mentioned that she was going to be
included in a special publication on the women of Korean Vogue, I asked
her to grab a copy for me. I’ve been a big fan of Vogue since I was 13
years old, saving my babysitting money for that thick mag, full of
glossy photos of impossibly beautiful models in gorgeous clothes. While
some of my friends dreamed of being models, I knew early on, I could
never be one – none of them were ever Asian (oh yeah, also it could be
that I’m only 5 feet tall on a good day, and not a size 0). Is it any
wonder I wanted to be a fashion designer instead?
Jane sent the anniversary book along with our friend. To my
surprise, however, it wasn’t a special magazine issue – it’s a
beautifully produced, coffee-table style book. And the pictures are
I’ve spent the day perusing through page after page of stunningly amazing Korean women, all ages and professions.
My perception of Korea and Korean women in particular have been
woefully misinformed. For the first twenty years of my life, I thought
of Korean women as beaten down, craggy-faced, poor peasant women or
beaten-down, craggy-faced, poor urban women.
It is not an exaggeration to say that my only knowledge of Korean
women came from the television show M*A*S*H, Asian prostitutes as
portrayed in movies (especially those about the Vietnam war) and the
above-mentioned poor, broken ahjumma.
Of course, intellectually, I knew that Korean women were more than
just the stereotypes portrayed in the media; but growing up there was
little counteraction to those stereotypes. Even today, there is a lack
of representation of Asian women.
As I flip page after page of Korean women in their artist studios,
with their instruments, in their offices, next to their fire-truck and
police cars and in their temple – all ages, all body shapes, all
different professions –
I feel like for the first time, I’m beginning to understand what a wonderful and beautiful genetic history I have.