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Rituals of Separation: A South Korean Memoir of Identity and Belonging

In Guest Post on September 8, 2017 by joshsandoz

Contributed by Liz Rice

I was nine months old when my American family landed in Seoul, South Korea, in 1966, the youngest of four children. My parents were social justice oriented people, called to divided places. They moved to South Korea as missionaries to try and help a country that had lived through a devastating century.

liz rice youthI was too young when we arrived to go through culture shock or deal with acculturation as my parents did. I was too young to know what it meant that we were leaving the country of my passport behind. Going to Korea is something I don’t remember. I woke up to life there. And over sixteen years, Korea, its history and its ways, became my reference point.

I learned to speak Korean as I learned to speak English. For the first four years of my life, as my parents were attending language school and beginning to work, I was in the daily care of Koreans, soaking up language, culture and the customs of one of the most Confucius and homogenous cultures in the world. I went to Korean nursery school, soaking up even more. Up until the age of five, when we first visited the US, Korea was all I remembered and knew. My family was American, but the US was a foreign country. For the next sixteen years, Korea was, simply, home.

And if the story ended there, it would be a story of a complicated and rich childhood in a place of contrasts and contradiction, in a humble, ancient nation far away from the home of my ancestors. A story of a girl, part Korean, part American, and always something in between. But something happened after my family left Korea. Read More »

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