If I may say this about Koreans in general, I don’t think we’re too good at this diaspora thing yet.
When I think about diaspora, I think of the Jewish people and the Chinese. I think these two people groups, while there are certainly other groups who qualify as diaspora people, have a great deal of wisdom when it comes to maintaining their identity while living peaceably in another’s land.
For instance, Jewish people have a notion of charity or tzedaka, that is not meant only for fellow Jews, but for the community as a whole. I think in general, there is a great deal of accumulated sophistication on how to negotiate racial identity formation in the face of a dominant culture.
I also believe that the Chinese people are much better at diaspora as well. I don’t know how to put it in words, but there is a sort of pragmatism about them that lends itself well to brushing off potential offenses and gets on to the business of living and working. While that may not have done all that much in advancing civil rights or whatnot, it has helped the Chinese establish a positive impression in the community as a whole. It may be perhaps that they have called other lands “home” for many generations and centuries, much longer than Koreans have.
Most Koreans are fairly recent immigrants. Thanks to the immigration policies of the 1970s and 1980s, the great majority of us are really only living a grand experiment in Korean history. Furthermore, even if the case is made that Koreans have been doing this for centuries I would be get to differ in that the Korean sense of exclusivism is so strong that I don’t think it would take much for Korea to cast individuals off that have left, after all they weren’t called the Hermit Kingdom for nothing.
Perhaps what’s even more interesting as to the timing of our diaspora is with globalization in this age, Koreans living outside Korea can still resist being a citizen of the world. Sometimes what is being fostered in the Korean diaspora is a new sense of nationalism, rather than a sense that we become invested in the land, the community, we live in. The fascinating thing is that this departure from the mother country was voluntary, but somehow not altogether desireable.
The catch is that for us as their children, as believers in the Gospel, need to begin to create a balance of what it means to be Korean and American and Christian. They are not mutually exclusive, but often I feel that in many cases 2 out of 3 cultures lose out. We tend to live in that tension which can often crowd out the Gospel. Yet the design of the Gospel is to transform culture; in my opinion, to bring out the best in culture. The tensions of living in the world and not being of it, is a God-sized task.
I often feel like we are at the epicenter of two (in our case, three) tectonic plates, and we either let our sin, to take us down into the Marianas Trench, or be challenged to let the Gospel work through our culture to take us up to the heights of the Himalayas.
In essence, I think the cost of discipleship is an addition onto the cost of diaspora for the families of immigrants . Are we willing to pay that price to follow Jesus?