Joshua Suh

Hometown, La Crescenta, CA
When my family immigrated to a small suburb near Los Angeles County when I was 10, I began referring to Koreans as the “invisible Asians.” The only reason was that whenever someone saw my last name, they would most definitely ask me, “are you Chinese? No? Then Japanese?” and, “Korean? Wait, then which Korea are you from?” and I was frustrated to be seen as a Korean immigrant whenever barrages of questions like these flew my way. I was reluctant to share my Korean name with anyone, but I was still forced into the position to teach Korean curse words to my friends. As I went through middle school and beyond, I viewed being Korean as a weakness. ​ I came to NCLC thinking I would become even more disillusioned by hearing stories that I never took to heart over and over again, but this conference was different. I felt that attending NCLC was a brand new experience that instilled a new “Koreanness” in me. Listening to speakers that survived hardships and discrimination among peers, and speakers who went beyond the Korean cultural norm to accomplish their dreams expanded my view of the Korean American community astronomically. Even if there were differences among the speakers, not one of the speakers failed to impress and humble me through their life stories that seemed similar to mine. I feel that I was too reluctant to stand out among my peers because I was afraid they would target the one thing I had no control over. However, now I wish I could talk to my younger self and tell him that his Korean heritage is what makes him unique, what drives him, what helps him in hard times, and what gives him hope, and I hope I can tell the same to future generations of Koreans just like the leaders that spoke to us during this conference.