Interview with The Korean from Ask A Korean!

I got the opportunity to interview The Korean from Ask A Korean! or also known as TK.

AAK! is definitely one of my favorite blogs. His posts are thoughtful, erudite, and many times down right hilarious. Though it's a run of the mill Ask Blog in procedure, people submit questions and he answers them, his answers cover the full spectrum of everything Korean and I always feel like learn a bit about myself. Though I was born here, being raised in a Korean home has obviously shaped me in ways I am still discovering now, especially as a parent. I certainly appreciate how AAK! was able help me understand Korean culture better and in turn give me an understanding of what parts of Korean culture has made me who I am today. He was nice enough to do an interview with this Daechoong Mama. The categories are listed above the questions, his answers in blue:


What were the motivating factors in starting Ask A Korean! ?

Boredom. I had too much time in my hand during law school, and I thought Ask a Mexican! was hilarious. 

Your blog, over the years, has accumulated many accolades. You have been featured in the New York Times, CNN Online, and you have been cited by many nationally respected publications, the NY Times, Washington Post, and The Economist, to name a few. Did you ever imagine it would get to this point when you started? What key factors do you think have attributed to the success of your blog?

I did not expect any of this. I still can't really believe this is happening. And I have no idea why the blog is successful. I suppose I'm an ok writer, but there are better writers out there than I. All I did was to write what I felt like, and people just came. 

 We know there are some questions you answer on AAK! and for some questions you give short email answers. What is the process in choosing which questions you feature?

I try to answer questions chronologically in the order I received, unless a question is particularly timely and/or piques my interest.

On a week-by-week basis what is the most difficult part of running your AAK!?

Finding the time to write consistently, especially as I continue to advance in my career. 



Do you have any kids? If so, what is your parenting style? If not, what do you think you parenting style will be? Does or will it differ from the way you were raised?

I don't have any child, yet. I expect it will be a full-blown Tiger Parenting, which will be similar to the way I and my wife were raised.  

You dedicated numerous posts on Tiger Parenting and you are a staunch advocate for it. The key thing that resonated with me was how you tied in character building, to what tiger parenting is.  To summarize what you said, Tiger parents teach their kids to play piano (or any instrument), not so they can add it to their list of talents, but because the discipline it takes to be successful at playing piano is the same discipline needed to be successful in life. Why do you think so many critics miss this aspect of Tiger Parenting?

Because they are soft and get scared by challenges. They literally can't imagine what it's like to face a tough challenge. 

I and 90% of all Korean Americans I ever met were raised by Tiger Parents. Though we hated it growing up and some of us, like me, vowed to be different. Now that we are parents we may see Tiger parenting coming out in raising our children.  Some may want to embrace it and some may fight it. Last week I spanked my 3 year old for not memorizing his sight words (which I will blog about soon), and all week I’m thinking “I can’t believe I’m becoming my mother.”

Would you tell Asian American’s to give in to the Tiger Parent in them? Do you think the same superior results can be achieved on the spectrum, somewhere between the  “lax western” style of parenting and Tiger Parenting?

I don't think "lax Western style parenting" and Tiger Parenting belong to the same continuum. One is wrong and the other is right. Parenting that does not instill discipline is no parenting at all.

That said, one can be flexible about the methodology of Tiger Parenting. Again, the point is to instill discipline; there are many ways to get there.







  Culturalism, Gladwell, and Plane Crashes Post 


You recently wrote a post Culturalism, Gladwell, and Plane Crashes. The post got a lot of ink all over the internet and, as you stated, received 24,000 page views shortly after its posting. Was it the media’s cultural hypotheses  on the Asiana plane crash that prompted you to write the post? Why do you think this post resonated and interested so many people? What do you think was the most compelling argument you made against Gladwell’s case?

Yes, it was the media reaction that prompted me to write the post, although I had thought that Gladwell had gotten his chapter in Outliers really wrong almost as soon as I read it.

I think it resonated people because instinctively, they realized that the cultural arguments were too easy and "just so."  I think the best argument I made was to introduce a lot more facts and factors that cast doubt on Gladwell's argument. Gladwell, in my opinion, engaged in a pretty egregious case of selective presentation. Just drawing back the curtain on him was pretty effective, I felt.

In the blogosphere, we praise or critique celebrities and high profile people without thinking twice that that person will actually read what we wrote and respond. What was your reaction when you saw that the world renown author, Malcom Gladwell, responded to your post? Do you think you would have changed anything in the post if you knew he was going to read what you wrote?

To be honest, I did not think much of it. I fully expected that Malcolm Gladwell would read my post as I was writing it.

Hmm he has a good point... darn it

Being Korean American


Looks innocent, don't be fooled.

I always wondered why Koreans thought sleeping with your electric fan on could kill you, and it has been so ingrained in me growing up that I just instinctively believe it as well. Your Fan Death post was life changing for me. I laughed out loud when you said in that post, you went through a period of “self hate” when you moved here from Korea. I could relate. You state that all Korean Americans go through this “self hate” phase. Can you explain this further? How did you come out of your “self hate”?

I think growing up as someone different from the majority leaves a scar, because as a child, all you ever want to do is to be "normal." It becomes frustrating to constantly explain the way you are and constantly justify your being. Eventually, you go through some version of hatred toward the difference that you have from all the other people. This is what I mean by the "self hate" phase.

I managed to get out of it by trying to gain deeper understanding of who I was, and find a reason why I got to be this way. The blog probably parallels that effort. 

Growing up in the States, many Korean Americans might have resented being Korean at point or another. Now that many second generation Korean American’s are having families of their own, they may want their children to grow up with a healthy understanding of who they are as Korean, in balance with who they are as Americans. What is some advice you can give as a cultural liaison to Korean American parents who want to achieve this balance? What are some practical ways we can teach our children to be proud of being Korean?

Learn Korean, visit often, and read a lot of what comes out of the country. Don't turn Korea into some type of monolithic essence, but understand it as a place where real people live--honorable, petty and everything in between.
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