While I am not Korean, I have been to South Korea 15 times from 1999-2004 on business trips. While I was a total foreigner in Korea and their culture was completely new to me, I did learn some things. For one, I learned that the stereotypes and prejudice my Japanese mom had for Koreans was unfounded. In fact, I came to recognize that most of her issues with Koreans was due to the elitism that many Japanese have. I also learned that instead of looking at commonalities, we as Asians tend to look at what separates us.
From my experience in my secular, atheist worldview I one day found myself a Christ follower and youth pastor of a Korean-American church. I led a monthly youth ministry of praise & worship nights where several local churches would bring their youth groups to in a spirit of unity. However, I went outside cultural lines and invited everyone. One night there were several teens there that were not Korean and the church that was leading the worship music sets were Hmong. Once one of the Chinese teens realized that the group leading were Hmong, she got totally offended and exclaimed that didn’t we know what the Hmong did to the Chinese? It was said quietly to her friends that brought her and I heard about it later, but I had to admit that I had no idea what the issue was. Hmong people reside in China and I had no idea there were tensions. Kind of like I had no idea beforehand that there were tensions in Korea between Koreans and Japanese.
While on one of my business trips I was in the car with a Korean business partner and were talking about something. It was in the context of something being Korean and I mentioned again that I was not Korean. He told me that I didn’t have to be, but that it was in my Asian blood. In other words, from his perspective there was something that united us as Asians, rather than separate us as Korean vs Japanese. I understood what he meant, yet in my own mind there was still a difference. Culturally Koreans and Japanese are different. Just as Chinese and Vietnamese or Thai and Filipinos. If we add Indians as part of being Asians then it gets even more diversified.
With the pride and felt need that ethnic churches must exist to serve first generation Asians coming to America, why does the ethnic church have such a problem with ministering to second and third generation Asians? If many second and third generation Asian-Americans are migrating into the predominantly white church, then what about those that stay in the English ministry of their ethnic church? Should we speak to us all having Asian blood that unites in some way and move forward collectively as a pan-Asian church or should we look to change the perspective of the ethnic church to better meet the needs of second and third generation people? Will we always have English ministries in the ethnic church, yet find some second and third generation people migrating and congregating with those outside of their own ethnicity?