The release of The Hangover Part III couldn't have come at a better time. We're due for another Daily SHAG (Smoking Hot Asian Guy) and who better than The Hangover's Peter Jae (you may remember him from one of our favorite series K-Town Cowboys!), who worked as a stuntman for the film. Peter is also currently working on stunts for the upcoming Michael Mann film, Cyber, starring Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei, and Wang Lee Hom. If you happen to be a fan of abs, you're in for a treat! Click on for more pics:
Technology has come quite a long way. Just ten years ago, texting was not a main form of communication, we had to actually remember phone numbers, and we went to the library to get information. Now, we live in a society of smart phones, gps systems, and social media. But apparently, we're not stopping there. Trying to make its way to the top of innovative technology is the process of doll cloning. Said to be perfect for the "tech-savvy ego-fetishist" individual, Japan's Clone Factory specializes in 3-D printing of human faces. For the price of $1300, you can now place your face onto a doll's...
This week, Forbes Magazine published their list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women 2013, their annual list of the impactful women from seven categories: billionaires, business, lifestyle (including entertainment and fashion), media, nonprofits and NGOs, politics and technology. The list was determined using three metrics: money, media presence and impact (please go here for a more in-depth explanation of their methodology). This year, 21 Asian women (2 are Asian American) are featured on the list, with mainly businesswomen and politicians ranking on the list, marking a very strong...
Complicated love triangles, near-death experiences, and endless tears? If this sounds familiar, your relationship may just be liken to some of our favorite Asian Dramas. Check the signs below: 1. You receive piggyback rides. This is often when you're too drunk to walk, but not too drunk to divulge some of your deepest secrets.
ABC's popular dance competition, Dancing With The Stars just concluded its 16th season. Aside from crowning American Idol's Kellie Pickler and dance partner Derek Hough as the winners, the finale featured performances by Psy, Jessica Sanchez, and Pitbull. Psy showed off some dancing skills of his own with his performance of his hit single "Gentleman". Of course the Korean performer brought along his impressive backup dancers decked out in gold pants and all. Slowing down the pace, Jessica Sanchez performed her rendition of the Pitbull and Christina Aguillera hit "Feel This Moment"....
Diary from Cannes 2013: Day 3 (May 18, 2013) After getting a quick glimpse of the beautiful beach weather that Cannes is known for on Friday, Saturday was full of storms and winds. But that didn't stop crowds from lining up outside the theaters with their umbrellas to wait for today's lineup of films. Perhaps the rain actually increased the popularity of the screenings, as festivalgoers preferred ducking in to theaters for shelter, as opposed to ducking into overpriced restaurants. The day started promisingly with the premiere of Bends, a debut film from Hong Kong's Flora Lau. The...
Researchers from the Floating Sheep Project have used Twitter to locate racist and homophobic tweets in the United States and have plotted them on an interactive map. Students at Humboldt State University looked at 150,000 tweets containing slurs from June 2012 to April 2013. The students carefully observed each tweet to determine if the word was being used in a positive or negative light and created the Geography of Hate. The goal of the project was to examine social media and determine how much it has become a platform for hate speech. Social media is often tied very closely to the offline...
Fox’s new high school musical dramedy has had the blogosphere buzzing all summer in anticipation. Glee star Jenna Ushkowitz prepares to join the in-crowd.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Girl Talk
STORY: Janice Jann
A dash of High School Musical, a pinch of Election, a slice of saucy adolescent drama topped with pop medleys both nostalgic and trendy, and you almost have the irresistible concoction of Fox’s most anticipated series of the fall, Glee. I say “almost” because Nip Tuck creator Ryan Murphy’s new musical dramedy creation is unlike anything else seen on television recently.
Glee centers around an ambitious young teacher, Will Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison), hoping to lead the high school glee club’s ragtag team of misfits to the national show choir competition. Facing the oppressive caste system that is high school hierarchy, with its stereotypes, teen angst and over-the-top drama, Will realizes that it’s going to be a rough ride to nationals.
What Will does have going for him, though, is a hodgepodge of diamond-in-the-rough outcasts who can carry one heck of a tune. And while the show doesn’t officially start until September 9, the glee club has already set off a fan frenzy with their rendition of Journey’s 1981 hit “Don’t Stop Believin’,” featured in the pilot, which aired in a sneak peek preview last May. The cover immediately shot to the number one downloaded song on iTunes and the Youtube versions have had more than half a million hits each. The show already has garnered three Teen Choice nominations and critical praise all around.
One glee club member is Jenna Ushkowitz. She plays Tina Cohen-Chang, a shy punk-goth chick who can belt out a rendition of I Kissed a Girl that would fluster Katy Perry herself. The Seoul, Korea-born Ushkowitz, adopted from Korea at the age of 3 months by a Polish-Italian father and Irish-English mother, is no stranger to the stage. Ushkowitz’s parents started taking their daughter to auditions and casting calls when she was 3.
“When I started, people would always tell my parents, ‘Jenna is a funny little girl,’” says Ushkowitz. “I would just go up to people in restaurants and say hi. I was very outgoing.”
Ushkowitz is similarly bright and chipper during our early morning phone interview. And why shouldn’t she be? With a primetime spot after juggernaut American Idol, all indicators point to Glee becoming one successful incoming freshman.
“It has been the most amazing experience and the most exhausting,” says Ushkowitz. “I don’t think anybody has ever done anything like this before, so a lot of hard work and experimenting and creating as we go along, but it’s been so rewarding.”
No stranger to hard work, Ushkowitz’s résumé is peppered with appearances on Sesame Street and As the World Turns, as well as roles in Broadway’s The King and I and Spring Awakening. Despite having appeared in The King and I at the age of 9, Ushkowitz didn’t discover her love for song and dance until high school. “I went to a Catholic performing arts school, so along with taking regular and religion classes, there was also theatre, dancing and choir,” she says. “I loved high school.”
Stop the record. That’s something you would never hear Ushkowitz’s alter ego, Tina, utter.
“Tina’s a little quieter, a little less involved,” Ushkowitz admits. “I did everything I could possibly do. I was in student council and high school musical. But I was also a total theatre geek. People would make fun of us.”
While Ushkowitz says it’s refreshing to play a character so unlike herself in real life, staying in character may not be the hardest part about her new job. “In theatre, you have six weeks and then you do your show,” she says. “In TV it’s different every time. They’re two different beasts, but I would say TV is a lot harder, a lot more time consuming because you’re rehearsing for a new show every week as well as shooting a TV show. So you’re rehearsing all the time.”
With never-ending rehearsals, rigorous shooting schedules, not to mention all the promotional appearances, Ushkowitz has hardly had any time to think about the skyrocketing stardom looming in the horizon. When asked about her impending fame, Ushkowitz laughs. “That’s a good way to put it,” she says. “Everyone says to us, ‘It’s going to be a hit, it’s going to be a hit,’ and all you can do is work hard and just cross your fingers. I don’t think any of us is thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to be famous.’”
For now, Ushkowitz is content with being a “gleek,” the term Fox is using to promote the show. She toured the country with her castmates this summer as a part of “The Gleek Tour,” stopping by malls from New York to Denver to Los Angeles. “I would definitely consider myself a gleek,” says Ushkowitz. And it looks like, come fall, so will everyone else.
Glee airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, starting September 9.
After a miscarriage and a job loss, one lawyer fires back and, amid the brouhaha, finds her way.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: My Story
STORY: Shinyung Oh
On Wednesday, April 24, 2008, I woke up at 3 a.m. When I went to the restroom, I felt a bucket of water gush out of me, as if from a popped water balloon. Sitting on the toilet, I was too stunned to cry. When I returned to bed, I told my husband, “I think we lost our baby.” Even as I said it, I prayed that wasn’t the case. We had been clinging to the hope that the baby was OK since 3 p.m. the day before when I started bleeding. It was the last week of my first trimester, and all I had been thinking until then was, “Just one more week until we’re in the clear.” Jeff held me for the rest of the night, between my trips to the bathroom to drain myself.
In the morning, we went to the hospital. As we had feared, the ultrasound showed a nearly empty uterus. We waited a few hours to undergo the procedure to remove the remaining tissue. Before the procedure, I emailed three partners at my law firm to explain why I wasn’t at work. Only one of them — the one whose wife had delivered a baby a month earlier — responded. The others ignored my message.
After the procedure, the doctor advised me to stay home for the rest of the day. On our way home, I called my parents. I didn’t know how to say “miscarriage” in Korean, so I said, “Mom, the baby died. The baby is dead.” The sound of my parents’ grief and befuddlement pained me.
When I went home, I threw my pile of baby books into a big shopping bag and shoved them into my closet. Next, I removed all of the pregnancy related entries in my calendar and inserted “miscarriage” for the day. Then I made myself a big pot of seaweed soup that my mom had made me promise to eat, and I sobbed as I shoved spoonfuls into my mouth.
After again informing my bosses, I stayed home the following Friday. I returned to work on Monday.
That Wednesday, a little after lunch, two partners walked into my office and told me that I was fired. Maybe I should have expected it, but I didn’t think it would happen six days after my miscarriage.
Work had been slow in the office. The firm had laid off a slew of secretaries and had been eliminating one or two associates at a time. Even as people were getting fired, we pretended we didn’t know because the terminated employees were bound by non-disclosure agreements. They couldn’t talk about it, and we didn’t want to put them in the uncomfortable position of asking.
Two months earlier, I had received an unexpectedly poor performance review. Although most of my ratings the prior year had been “outstanding” and “above expectations” and I had received positive feedback throughout the year, I had suddenly been downgraded in all categories without explanation. When I submitted a memo requesting specifics on where I had failed to perform and how I should improve my performance, the firm did not respond.
Just a week before my review, I had a one-on-one talk with the head of my department. Given the slow down, I wanted to know if I should do anything differently. He assured me that my work was “great” and that others in the department “love[d]” working with me.
I thanked him for the reassurance. “We all have our moments of insecurity, you know,” I said.
“I know, Shinyung,” he said. “And that is why I want to get it through your head. You are a great attorney. It’s not because of your work.”
When I asked him why work was so slow, he explained that the firm had priced itself out of its usual market with its rising billable rates and had not gained a foothold in the elite tier.
A week later, the same partner avoided my eyes as he gave me my poor review. Now, six days after my miscarriage, he asked me to sign a non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement in return for a three-month severance. I refused.
Instead, I went home. After some moping, I started drafting an email to the partners of my department. It seemed important to point out that there are ethical ways of terminating employees. Blaming an employee’s performance, when the decision was clearly economic, was not one of them. And making difficult business decisions did not require throwing basic human decency out the window. After thinking about it over the weekend, I sent my email on Monday to the partners of my department and the firm management. I clicked “All Associates” on the cc button, a recipient list nearing 1,000, and attached a copy of the non-disclosure agreement the firm had asked me to sign.
Within an hour after I clicked “send,” I received a notice that my email was posted on a legal blog called Above the Law. Within a day, the post generated close to 1,000 comments. In the following days, I received hundreds of messages from people I didn’t know and others I hadn’t heard from in years. In the following weeks, the story appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. 60 Minutes called. Almost a year later, the story re-surfaced in the Los Angeles Times, and I appeared briefly on the Today Show with two “etiquette experts” who advised how to send farewell emails.
People have asked me if I regret sending my email. I think they assume that I sent the email in a spurt of emotion. But to me, it wasn’t about venting, although it felt pretty good to get it off my chest. It was about calling out those who were abusing power, as I thought my bosses did when they mocked up my performance review to cover up their economic layoffs. And it was about speaking up for myself when wronged by a corporate bully, even if it meant getting bruised in the process.
But in some strange way, instead of a bruise, I got an unexpected boost. I have always been torn about my career. I am one of these people who went to law school because I didn’t know what to do. I timidly wanted to pursue a career in writing but couldn’t justify it to my practical side. Then there was the issue of parental expectations — and the guilt of an immigrants’ child. I went to law school the way I took medicine, gritting my teeth.
After law school, I spent an inordinate amount of time justifying my career to myself. It can be intellectually stimulating. People treat you professionally. It pays incredibly well.
When I sat there across from my bosses — as they lied to me in the process of firing me — I realized more clearly than ever that I did not want to become one of them. No matter how much they paid me.
After I sent my mass email, as I resigned myself to the thought that I had thrown away my 10-year career, I found myself in a space I had not allowed myself to be in before. The space to think of a different direction. To free myself from this career path I had set for myself at age 24. And oddly, the act of sending that email gave me a strange confidence. I had never been the kind or person to bring attention to myself, but here I had screamed my head off in the conservative and cautious world of lawyers. And the ceiling didn’t fall on me.
These days, I am working on my writing — through freelance work and my blog — while handling some legal work part-time. I also finally made it to my second trimester of pregnancy. We are expecting a little boy in October.
And at least once a day, I thank my lucky stars that I was fired.
Happy V-Day everyone! If you get engaged today (tell us!) or if you’re already engaged and thinking of saying “I do” on the Islands, here’s a little insider guide from a local. At the very least, it’ll get you in the mood for love.
Every woman pictures her wedding day to be absolute perfection — perfect fiancee, perfect dress, perfect ring … and perfect weather. Where else to go for perfect weather year round but the islands of Hawaii? In Hawaii there is no destined “wedding season” as there is in the mainland, because the weather stays the same each and every day. Warm and sunny. Perfect.
Unfortunately, not every one of us has a contact in Hawaii that is “in the know,” so I’ve compiled a basic list of recommended and reputable companies that play a vital role in the workings of a wedding ceremony. Each company has had many years of experience in the islands, and offer the best when it comes to capturing the essence of the “dream wedding in paradise.”
Watanabe Floral is one of the most reputable florists in the state of Hawaii, winning numerous awards including Hawaii’s Best Florist 2003-2008 by Star Bulletin Midweek, Best Florist 2007 by Honolulu Magazine, and Best of the Best 2007-2008 by Honolulu Advertiser. Watanabe Floral is a family business that has been in the industry for more than 64 years. The store offers services including bridal bouquets, church and reception flowers, centerpieces, boutonnieres and corsages, parent pieces, leis, hair pieces, archway decorations, on-site set up, and free consultation with appointment. Not only does Watanabe Floral offer a wide range of flowers, but they are well informed in the meaning behind the flowers as well as floral and plant care.
Marina Miller is the owner of Red Heart Photo. Red Heart Photo employs a unique and fresh style, transcended by classic photojournalistic techniques with an edge so that every moment in a wedding can be captured perfectly. “Your wedding is a very special day. My job is to capture your day as a story, catching those little and big moments as they unfold before me. I perform with professionalism and a creative vision that will bring out your inner star,” she says.
Supreme Video Productions was founded by Philip Lemoine in Late 2009. Philip has had more than six years in the videography industry. After filming dozens of weddings with other reputable production companies back home in California, he decided to make the jump to Hawaii to finish his degree in business at the University of Hawaii, pursue his passion for film, and start his own production company. Supreme Video Productions offers footage mastered onto Blue-Ray DVD format, and is recorded in full 1080p HD. “Our style of filming and editing is far from the traditional. With smooth camera movements, creative angles, and a high production value, you can truly relive your special moments.”
Get a taste of their work here:
Supreme Video Productions
Aloha Cakery was founded by Kathy Mahone in 2007, but she has been designing cakes since 1992. Kathy Mahone was born in Kailua, Hawaii, and she and her family moved to Maryland in 1999. While she was there, she worked with Fancy Cakes by Leslie,a renowned cake artisan in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland area. Aloha Cakery has won awards including, 2010 pick for the knot Best of Weddings, and Bride’s Choice Awards 2010 by Wedding Wire.
For more information on these companies as well as other reputable companies in Hawaii, The Wedding Cafe is the place to go. It is a bit of a “one stop shop” for brides to be, and the staff there takes care of you for every minute in planning your wedding. The Wedding Cafe holds workshops, trunk shows, and special events, and their website features an online directory of recommended vendors including bridal salons, caterers, entertainment, hair and makeup stylists, officiants, reception decor, valet services, and venues.
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook gives us yet another deliciously evil female character in his latest vampire film, Thirst.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Plugged In
STORY: Jimmy Lee
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook is at it again, defying convention and cliché in creating his singularly cinematic visions. After Old Boy gave the revenge thriller dizzying twists of incestuous proclivities and his romantic comedy I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK opened with the female protagonist slitting her wrists, Park has infused the vampire film with some fresh blood in his latest feature, Thirst.
Although, if he could have seen into the future 10 years ago when he came up with the idea while making his first blockbuster, Joint Security Area, things might have turned out differently. “If I had known [about the resurgence of the vampire genre], maybe I wouldn’t have made Thirst. I wouldn’t have liked to make another vampire film,” said Park through a translator a few days before Thirst began a limited U.S. release on July 31.
Park’s penchant to be original and inventive does indeed come out in Thirst, adding to the genre through the subtraction of vampire clichés. “‘What does a vampire film have to do with a crucifix?’ I first thought. And that was one of the first things I took away,” said Park. “I found I could make a story without these elements, and it prompted me to think about taking away another convention, and another one after that.”
Another break from formula is that the bloodsucker in Thirst is a man of the cloth. “Pastors or priests always play the role of someone who hunts down vampires. They never become vampires themselves,” said Park. “That was something that struck me as being quite surprising.”
When Sang-hyun, a priest with a Christ-like willingness to sacrifice his life to save others, takes part in a medical test, the blood transfusion that brings him back from the dead also turns him into the undead. The blood, as well as the laughs — there’s much black comedy coursing through Thirst’s veins — really starts to gush when he becomes entangled with Tae-ju, a childhood friend’s wife, played by former beauty pageant winner Kim Ok-vin.
As in Old Boy, there’s a scene with a sharp instrument and an open mouth that ratchets up the tension. And like Park’s Lady Vengeance, the female lead lashes out at those who’ve tormented her in the past with a bloodthirsty vengeance (pun intended).
Audrey spoke with Park, who is deliberate and urbane when doing interviews, about his female characters, who can turn out to be impulsive and violent.
Audrey Magazine: You put your female characters through so much emotional and physical turmoil in some scenes. How do you get through filming these sequences with the actresses you work with?
Park Chan-wook: You’d be surprised to find out that these beautiful women have this scary aspect. When you explain the violence of the scene to them, you might expect them to say, “Oh dear.” But it’s not like that all. They go further. They not only understand the nature of the scene, but they give up their own ideas and are enthused by it.
AM: Was that the case with Kim Ok-vin?
PCW: She said, “Wow, it was the first time I read a cool script like this.” But when the time for shooting drew closer, she started getting scared at the thought of doing this film. She plays a character whose emotions are exhausting; she has to give everything until there’s nothing left. So the process of shooting itself was difficult for her. And that’s why all the other actors, who are more experienced and have had the experience of working with me, would encourage her and compliment her performances and check how she’s feeling. They really gave her the sense that she’s being protected.
AM: So what inspires you to create these vicious female characters?
PCW: I’m not sure whether it’s because my personality is twisted or whether it’s perverted. These are the kind of women I wouldn’t want to come across in real life. At least in film, I’m attracted to crazed and evil and dangerous women.
Shooting for the Moon: Actor Justin Chon is going to be busy for a while, co-starring in the next two Twilight sequels, new Moon and Eclipse. But don’t think he’s got his head in the clouds. He’s plowing ahead, keeping his head down with a backup plan or two.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Audrey Man
STORY: Lan N. Nguyen
Justin Chon almost passed on Twilight. First, he had no way to anticipate what a mega hit the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s young adult bestseller would be. Second, the 28-year-old Korean American actor had just wound down his role as Tony Lee on Nickelodeon’s teen show Just Jordan. He was on the hunt for something meatier than a role in a high school vampire love story.
But he changed his mind when he heard that Catherine Hardwicke was directing. “I loved Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen,” he says. “And a few days later, I found out that Kristen Stewart was attached. I loved Into the Wild.”
The rest, as they say, is movie history. Twilight has raked in more than $382 million worldwide since its 2008 release. Justin recently finished reprising his role as loveable geek Eric Yorkie in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the second film in the series. And in August, he headed back to Vancouver to once again attend Forks High School for the third film, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
Much has changed for students of Forks High in New Moon. Eric has given up trying to impress Bella, says Justin. “I am 100 percent committed to Angela,” he says of Bella’s best friend. Fans can also expect a more action-packed sequel. “The guys who play the wolf pack are going to bring more raw brawniness to the movie,” he says. “And they have Native American blood in them. So it’s cool, as an Asian American actor, to see minorities will be a major factor in something so mainstream.”
Born in 1981 in Irvine, Calif., Justin and his younger sister, Jamie, grew up in an artistic household. Before his mom, Kyung, became a homemaker, she was a pianist. And his father, Sang, was an actor in South Korea. (He went into the shoe business after immigrating to the U.S.)
“My sister and I found out [about my dad] when I was about 6 or 7,” Justin recalls. “We had found this old VHS tape and our dad was acting. We took it to our mom and she explained. It was amazing. When you think of your dad, you don’t think of him as an actor, especially being Asian American.”
Not surprisingly, when Justin enrolled at the University of Southern California, he decided to try his hand at acting. He did a two-year stint at The Joanne Baron/DW Brown Studio, an acting school in Santa Monica. And when he graduated from USC in 2004 with a bachelor’s in business, he told his parents to give him two years to give acting a chance.
“My parents were really worried,” says Justin. “You don’t normally see Asian people on TV. We grew up in an artistic household so they were not opposed to acting. They were just worried about if I could make a living. Once I showed them I could, they were more at ease.”
Work in commercials soon developed into work on TV, most notably in Just Jordan. He was also trying to carve out a movie career. His most challenging role to date has been playing a first-generation Korean immigrant in 2009’s Crossing Over, which also starred Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd.
“I was the lead in my own story line,” he says. “I had a love story and a sex scene and some intense stuff, with the dynamics between my family, friends and girlfriend. On top of that, I was playing a Korean immigrant kid so I had an accent. I had to have the demeanor and mentality of not having a place anywhere. It took a lot of work. With acting you don’t see the work behind it. You just see the finished product.”
Then there is Twilight. When Justin landed the role of Eric Yorkie, he only had a brief description to work with: Eric was 6-foot, 3-inches tall and had black, greasy hair, was the chess club type, and had bad skin. Still, Justin rose to the challenge and created a character that could be found in any real high school.
“I played upon the chess club type and being valedictorian,” he says. “From that, I derived that he kind of doesn’t fit in, but he does have a group of friends who are sort of awkward and don’t fit into any category themselves. So they’ve found each other. And each one brings a very unique thing to the group.”
Justin is “a perfectionist,” says pal Michael Welch, who plays Eric’s best friend Mike Newton. “He’s a really interesting guy. He’s a total Southern California guy. At the same time, he is very serious and a sensitive artist and actor. Actually, he has an easier time on the set when he has something meaty to do because he’s a very serious guy when it comes to his work.”
Despite being in the biggest movie of 2008 and what will likely be the biggest movie of 2009, Justin recognizes that he is unlikely to achieve superstar status himself. “At the end of the day, I am still a minority actor,” he explains. “Asian people have not really broken through in terms of becoming mainstream like Will Smith has. I don’t think we have proven we are a major market yet.”
To take more control over his career, he’s been working with some indie directors and writers to craft projects. “I love acting but who knows,” he says. “It’s a very fickle industry. I could be hot now but in five to 10 years, I’ll need something else.”
Justin’s starting on that something else right now. Following in his father’s footsteps, he started a shoe and clothing store called Attic (attic2zoo.com) with childhood friend Jimmy Yang. The pair opened a location in Buena Park, Calif., four years ago. It’s doing so well that they recently opened a second store in San Diego.
“I got a business degree and spent a lot of money for it,” he says with a laugh. “It seemed like a waste. It’s been a labor of love for Jimmy and me. For anyone who has started a business, it’s like a second job. But it’s paid off. I am really proud of it.”
Korean Americans are rediscovering their ancestral cuisine and cashing in on the newest ethnic food trend.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Living Feature
STORY: Anna M. Park
Connie Choe-Harikul always refused to eat kimchi. When the second-generation Korean American was growing up she wouldn’t touch anything spicy. Even when her family went to the local Korean restaurant, she’d go out of her way to avoid all things piquant, often leaving her with few menu options.
Until she and her mother started an online business selling, of all things, kimchi.
“It’s pretty addictive,” says Choe-Harikul of the spicy fermented cabbage side dish ubiquitous in every Korean meal. “My husband [who is Thai and Caucasian] and I always keep some in the fridge now.”
Today, GrannyChoe.com sells homemade kimchi and delivers it anywhere in the U.S. And Choe-Harikul is one of an increasing number of Korean Americans who are not only reconnecting with their ethnic culture through food, but are carving the way for a Korean cuisine revolution in the already diverse American gastronomic landscape.
It’s a scene all too familiar for many second-generation Korean Americans. Little Jane Kim comes home from school with her best friends, Susie Smith and Jennifer Jones. It’s their first time at her house — she’s a frequent guest at theirs and she knows their routine: a warm hug, casual inquiries about school, cookies and milk, run upstairs to play Barbies. But as Jane walks through the door of her house, it hits her … like a ton of bricks. Except that bricks would have been preferable. Because bricks don’t smell like kimchi. Raw, pungent, garlicky — indescribable, really, at least to an adolescent. She doesn’t even turn around to see the horrified expressions on her soon-to-be ex-best friends. She knows. She just knows.
Exaggeration? Maybe. But Choe-Harikul can empathize. “Our house just smelled like Korean food,” says the 26-year-old, who was born and raised in the suburban city of Moorpark, Calif. Her Korean-born mother, Oghee Choe, grew up in Seoul making kimchi all her life.
“Full on burying it in the ground and everything,” says Choe-Harikul, referring to the traditional practice of burying kimchi in clay pots underground to allow it to ferment. Oghee continued the kimchi-making practice in the U.S., where she’d take over the kitchen with gigantic bowls and glass jars, digging her hands into the spicy concoction. “You could really smell it,” says Choe-Harikul.
“In a class of 450 kids in my high school, I was the only Korean student,” she continues. “Now it’s sort of cool to be more diverse and in touch with your heritage. But it was less cool when I was growing up.”
It’s not that second-generation Korean Americans don’t like the taste of Korean food. The distaste arose more from the embarrassment of the smell and of being “different” when their white friends visited their homes, says Kyeyoung Park, a professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. It was symbolic — practically an exclamation — of their “different-ness” at a time when all they wanted to do was fit in.
“It was a kind of secret,” says Park. “[Korean Americans] were super aware of how it would be perceived by others.”
Korean American Debbie Lee, a contestant on the latest season of the reality show The Next Food Network Star, says when she first tried Korean food at the age of 8 — after years of eating fried chicken, black eyed peas and other foods typical of the South where she was raised — she immediately took to it.
“Maybe it’s a genetic thing, but I actually liked it,” says Lee, though she admits to rinsing the kimchi in water at first. When she got older, she says she “really found a love for the flavors [and] for what it was.”
Indeed, Korean Americans are increasingly embracing their ancestral cuisine, and not just in the privacy of their own homes. In the past couple of years, Los Angeles has been hit with the blogosphere phenomenon Kogi BBQ truck, a mobile street vendor serving up soft tacos with Korean marinated beef called bulgogi. Founded by Korean Americans Roy Choi and Caroline Shin-Manguera, the taco truck spawned copycats Calbi BBQ and Bool BBQ. Even mega-chain Baja Fresh has added the Korean beef taco to their menu.
And while mom-and-pop Korean restaurants have always been around in the U.S., more “modern” and mainstream-friendly Korean restaurants have been cropping up in hip urban enclaves. Gyenari in Culver City, Calif., is run by second-generation Korean Americans William Shin, Danny Kim and Chris Kim; Simon Shin’s celebrity-frequented Shin BBQ is in Hollywood; and Korean Temple Cuisine in New York is owned by 20-something Jennifer Maeng.
“In general, Korean Americans have been a little bit slow in introducing Korean food [to mainstream America],” says Park, perhaps because they were trying to figure out a way to introduce their native food in a way that makes Americans “feel comfortable.”
But it wasn’t only the “Americans” they wanted to make comfortable. In many ways, Korean Americans, by embracing their food, are making peace with their bicultural, sometimes confused self-identity. “Korean Americans shared the transformative experience of first ‘acting white’ and then later affirming their Korean heritage,” says Park in her 1999 study of immigrant Korean American children published in Amerasia Journal, a leading interdisciplinary journal in Asian American studies. “Becoming a member of the ethnic community often becomes a first step to resolve the question of one’s identity or selfhood.”
Choe-Harikul found growing up the only Korean in a predominantly white neighborhood “confusing.” Lee, an Arizona native, also found it troublesome. “People would tease me and say I was a Mongol and crap like that,” says Lee. “I didn’t even know what a Korean was. You know what a Chinese person was because they owned the restaurant in town, you know Japanese, but what is a Korean? I prayed to have blonde hair and blue eyes every day when I was a little girl.”
It wasn’t until Lee moved to California that she began connecting with her Korean culture. Her grandparents had just immigrated and moved to Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Lee didn’t speak Korean and the neighborhood kids didn’t speak English. So Lee found herself stuck with her non-English speaking grandmother. They connected through the language of food.
“[My grandmother] would give me a smaller bowl of whatever she was cooking and she’d show me,” says Lee. “She’d take my hand and have me feel it and then have me taste it so I understood what I was doing. So that’s how I started understanding.”
But still, says Lee, it wasn’t until she was older that she began appreciating her Korean American heritage.
Through food, Korean Americans may develop an interest in other aspects of their Korean culture, says Park. “Korean food makes connections ethnically and culturally; about who they are and what they are,” she adds.
“Food is the easiest way for me to learn about somebody, including myself,” says Lee. “Understanding their food and flavors, and maybe a story that attaches to a part of their culture, is a great and easy way not only for me but for others to really connect with each other.”
Korean food was Lee’s entrée to making a name for herself in the culinary world. As a restaurant consultant and caterer, she’d sneak in “sesame oil and soy sauce anywhere I could.” In her Hollywood catering business, her Korean ssam, a lettuce cup with bulgogi and Asian style salsa, was her best seller. And though she may not have won her own cooking show on The Food Network, she made it to the top three with her “Soul 2 Seoul” cooking style. The publicity has given her new restaurant, Hot Dog Debbie’s, a boost. True to form, Lee will be taking the all-American dog and mixing it up with sides like kimchi kraut and what she calls Mama Lee’s spicy sauce, which incorporates kkochujang, or chili paste, as a base.
In experimenting with the food of their ancestors, Park says Korean Americans are redefining what America is about — an America that includes them. “When non-Korean Americans show an interest in Korean culture, that makes a young Korean American more comfortable, like [they’re not] something deviant,” she says. “I think that’s a great sign.”
And it explains why more Korean Americans are drawn to their ancestral cuisine, fusing and melding its flavors with those they grew up with. “People who aren’t even Korean know things [about Korean food and culture] now,” says Choe-Harikul, whose customers are mostly non-Koreans from New England and the Midwest. “I have to know these things and I have to keep asking my mom these questions, like what was it like growing up and making kimchi with your family.”
“Korean food has been that hidden food for so long and it’s been right there in front of you,” says Lee, who believes that Korean is the new Chinese. “I won’t be surprised if there’s some Korean P.F. Chang’s concept out there lurking around.”
Indeed, if a P.F. Chang’s of Korean food does sprout, it need only take a suggestion from Choe-Harikul on the best way to introduce the spicy fermented cabbage to Main Street USA. “Macaroni and cheese and kimchi,” says Choe-Harikul. “Even though it sounds scary, it mellows out the spiciness a little.”
As for that one-of-a-kind smell? Choe-Harikul has no secrets to kicking the kimchi odor. “You learn to love the smell,” she says.
Summer 2009 Issue: Girl Talk
For professional surfer and model Esther Hahn, catching a wave is more a love affair than a career.
Story by Shinyung Oh
Riding a wave beats falling in love.
So says 23-year-old surfer and model Esther Hahn.
She describes the feeling of achieving what she calls her “ultimate goal” — of barreling her lithe 5-foot, 5-inch frame in a giant wave. “You’re in the middle of a dreamland, in a different universe when you’re in there,” she says. “It’s the best feeling. It trumps all other feelings.” Continue Reading »
It’s been awhile since Lisa Ling has worked in an office. Though the seasoned 37-year-old journalist, who got her first television hosting gig at age 16, is one of the hardest-working women on TV, her work environment range from the set of The View from 1999-2002 to investigating gang rapes in the middle of Africa as the host of National Geographic Ultimate Explorer to even the comforts of her own home, writing the book, Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home with her sister Laura Ling. It’s safe to say it’s been awhile since Ling has had a chat by the water cooler or peeked over a cubicle.
Yet, this is the very setting where we meet, in the newly occupied citrus-hued OWN (short for Oprah Winfrey Network) offices on the Miracle Mile of Los Angeles, California, where Ling is also having a photo shoot. Ling doesn’t have an office at this space but with a new show on the OWN channel, she does call Oprah boss. And she does miss working in an office. At the start of our interview, the energetic Ling muses, “I was saying to [my publicist], there’s so many cute guys here!” Ling’s new show, Our America, delves into our very own backyard and stems from Ling’s own Chinese American upbringing and not feeling like she fit into any culture.
“This series is kind of a window into who we are as Americans and what it means to be an American. We explore the ugly parts as well as the challenging parts. It really is, I hope, an all encompassing experience.”
What makes Ling’s series unique is the positive, hopeful edge ever-present throughout the series. “My hope is they will look at things differently than they may have looked at them before and they might have a little more compassion than they had before. It’s so easy to think about any topic or issue in a really black and white way and what we’re trying to do is go beneath the surface and try to provide a different perspective. No matter the topic that we’ve been covering, we feature people who ultimately came from a mother who love him or her. That’s something I keep in the back of my mind.” Ling understands the opportunity that Oprah and the OWN channel have given her in telling these stories. “It’s hard,” Ling says, “TV’s all about the lowest common denominator — what’s the most sensational. It’s so unusual to work for a woman or an organization that seeks out intention in work. Usually it’s like, okay, how’s it going to rate and while that is important, equally as important is what the intention is. I’m really grateful.”
Some issues the show will attempt to shed light to include mail-order brides, sex-offender colonies and faith healers. Faith is something Ling has also personally been exploring. I have seen a lot of things in my life and career that have made me question God and the idea of faith,” Ling explains. “Kids trafficked to other parts of the world and forced into sex slavery, women being gang raped in the middle of Africa and no one paying attention to it. A lot of these things I’ve seen and experienced made me think, if there’s a God, how could he/she allow these things to happen?” But through her exploration and with the help of her husband, Ling’s view on God and faith has been shifting. “There’s a Catholic nun here in LA, she’s kind of a guru of mine — big sister Margaret — she’s become a mother to these transgendered prostitutes and people have been kicked out of their homes. People who nobody accepts, this catholic nun accepts. To me, that’s when I see God in people like that. She never talks about God, she just acts in a God-like way — whooo we’re getting deep here!” Ling gasps. The whole room cracks up. “But you can probably see I’m fascinated by this topic. I can’t stop thinking about it. Am I completely there yet? I can’t say definitively. Faith has always been a real exploration for me but it’s one that I’m enjoying and learning a lot from.”
On the subject on beliefs, Ling is grateful for one person that has faith in her. “I have worked with Oprah more than five years now,” Ling gushes about her boss. “She’s just awesome. The only reason I have this series on this network is because she believes in me. Just the way she led her life with such integrity. It’s really rare to find people like that in this business and that’s a reason why she’s as successful as she is, because she never deviated from that.”
Remember a month ago when we told you to vote for Eliot Chang for the Comedy Central’s Stand Up Showdown? Thanks to all your votes, along with those of his other fans, he placed second! He is in shock, since he was only hoping to get into the top 10, but just as we said, he’s the real deal. Anyways, he is grateful for everyone who voted for him, so he made a video for all of you! He’s planning an one-hour special but nothing’s set in stone yet, so let’s hope that it’ll happen! Don’t forget to subscribe to his YouTube channel, eliotchangthecomic!
If you want to see Eliot live, be sure to tell him the name of your local comedy club. It’ll be full of fresh comedic materials to keep you laughing till you cry because he never, and he does mean never, repeats his jokes!
I don’t dread Valentine’s Day because it’s the only reason keeping Hallmark in business.
I don’t dread it because it’s another excuse for couples to parade their PDA around.
I don’t dread it because much like New Year’s Eve, this over-hyped holiday is downright boring. Spent either waiting in line for hours for a 9 o’ clock dinner reservation at an overpriced restaurant deemed “romantic” because they’ve dimmed the lights so low you can’t even see what you’re eating or exchanging the same ol’ gifts of chocolate, flowers and baubles. *Yawn.
And I am definitely not dreading it because I will be single on Valentine’s Day this year.
In fact, this is actually the first year where I cherish being single. I’ll admit, in the past, I’ve wanted to shake being single off me like it’s an angry bee but this year, I’ve learned to embrace the freedom that flying solo will entail.
Hence, I’ve concocted a bunch of great stuff for us single gals to do as we celebrate Singles Awareness Day or rather, Galentines!
Watch Obscure Foreign Films
Boys never seem to be good checking out truly great cinema- they always fall asleep or groan about it or what to make out with you through it. I’d check out these sexy South Korean films: Poetry by Lee Chang-dong or The Housemaid by Im Sang-soo by myself.
If you think about it, the person you will have the longest relationship with is…yourself. Why not make time for some self-reflection, journaling goals, ways to improve, memories?
Spend the season of love giving love to those who might not necessarily receive a lot. Volunteer at an elderly home, homeless shelter, non-profit organization. Do it by yourself because when you’re doing it alone, you’re not trying to impress anyone or prove how holy you are. You’re just doing it out of the goodness of your heart.
It’s time to bust out the pans and oven mitts and whip up some delicious sweets. You won’t have to worry about any sneaky muffin thieves who’ll creep into you kitchen while you’re not looking. I’d bake for ALL my loved ones, my mom, dad, sister and friends. Check out Sarah J. Gim’s mouthwatering site Tastespotting for more recipe ideas.
I hate jogging with other people, no offense. I either run too slow and have to overwork my body to catch up (or let down my ego and beg them to slow down) or run slower as I wait for my lagging partner. Jogging by myself gives me time to think and meditate.
Throw a Game Night
Nothing says the more the merrier like game night where people of all types, singles and non-singles, are invited to show off their board game prowess. Just don’t be lame and make it a couples’ night or anything. My favorite games to dominate at–err, I mean, play–include Cranium and Taboo.
Day spas, tea parties, salsa dancing, there’s plenty of ways to celebrate your singledom. Most of us will only be single for a limited time in our lives. Make the most of it!