Jen Lee’s “Dear Korea” Shows What It’s Like To Live In Korea As A Korean American

 

Residing in a little villa in Gwangju, South Korea, Texan Jen Lee is living the dream of being a comic artist. In 2010, Lee packed her bags in Houston and followed her boyfriend, an English teacher, to the Land of the Morning Calm. It was a unique and exciting opportunity for Lee to move to Gwangju, located some 180 miles south of Seoul. The city is best known for being the birthplace of the modern Korean democratic movement, as well as for its parks, museums and hip urban art scene. “I haven’t moved once since I got here,” says the 27-year-old. “I’ve grown fairly attached to this lovely city.”

As an adolescent, Lee often felt isolated from the Korean community in Texas. Her parents immigrated to the United States a few years before Lee was born. “I never really identified with the Korean side of myself,” she recalls. “That being said, growing up where my cultural background was mostly unknown to everyone around me came with its awkward moments.” So Lee turned to art. “According to my mother, I was drawing before I could form proper sentences,” she says. But it wasn’t until elementary school that she began drawing comics.

The idea for her popular comic strip, “Dear Korea,” stemmed from conversations with fellow expats about the funny and odd moments they’d experienced living in Korea. “I thought it would be interesting to create a comic that highlighted what it was like to live in Korea as a Korean American,” explains Lee. “While people like me are technically expats, I think our perspectives may be a little different from those who grew up with little or no Korean influences in their lives.”

Anyone who has lived on her own or has an interest in Korean culture can relate to Lee’s comics. Indeed, though “Dear Korea” started out as a Web comic, it has since branched out and the strip is now published in various magazines and publications around the country. “From what I can tell, my comics are read by expats from all over the world,” says Lee.

In addition to the opportunities — Lee supports herself with freelance art gigs, radio work and tutoring — living in Korea has given Lee a new perspective on her ancestral homeland. She says she loves the food and the affordable health care. But perhaps the best part of living in Gwangju is finally feeling connected to a community, one filled with a good number of expats: “I honestly don’t know how long I would have lasted here without them.”

For more “Dear Korea,” go to dearkoreacomic.com.

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–STORY BY JULIE CARLSON
This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

 

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Mindy Kaling’s Comic Strip!?

We know Mindy Kaling as the popular actress, comedian, writer and producer most known for her role as Kelly Kapoor in The Office and for creating and starring in The Mindy Project. Of course, here at Audrey Magazine, we also know her as our Winter 2011-12 cover girl. 

As it turns out, we’ve all been unaware of another talent under Kaling’s belt.

The 2001 Dartmouth college graduate apparently had a popular comic strip in the Dartmouth school newspaper titled “Badly Drawn Girl.”

“There were times I was at The D at like 3 a.m., outside in my car while it was snowing and I’d just put my blinkers on and sit there drawing. I don’t know how I kept up with everything.” Kaling tells Dartmouth Alumni Magazine who claim that the comic strip quickly made Kaling a “campus celebrity.”

Lucky for us, some of Kaling’s comic strips have been making its way onto social media. You may not recognize Kaling’s birthname Vera Mindy Chokalingam, but you will recognize her notable wit and humor sprinkled throughout her comics. Check them out for yourself.

 

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Comic Tackles Misconceptions About Feminism

These days, we get the striking feeling that feminism has become a misunderstood concept.

Time and time again, I’ve come across individuals who associate feminism as the hatred of men. Thats it. Apparently there is no actual and logical reason behind why women are feminists aside from the desire for bra-burnings, anger, and the shared hatred of all males.

Even worse, “feminism” has gained some negative connotations. Suddenly, women who are feminists are viewed as bad girlfriends and bad wives. As a result, even women who feel strongly for their rights as an individual do not want to be associated with the description “feminist.”

These misunderstandings are exactly why 20-year-old Katarzyna Babis designed a comic to show why feminism exists.

“I would like to take away the bad rep of the word ‘feminism,’ broaden the awareness of the actual agenda of this movement, and of the need for discussion about the way in which women are treated in our society,” Babis told HuffPost.

Her comic portrays the double standards that women often face and the judgements they receive no matter what lifestyle choice they make.

“[I wanted to start a] discussion about the problem with the way women are perceived by the society, about huge and often contradictory expectations that are put on their shoulders,” said Babis. “In this reality, a woman’s body doesn’t belong to her –- it is either a public property, intended only to be admired, or a source of sin, shame and guilt.”

As Asian American women, we are no strangers to expectations and judgements. Dressing a certain way or even choosing a certain career path can trigger a number of judgements from our very own family. This is exactly the thing that Babis portrays in her comic below.

 

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