Language and identity

The other day, I read Derrida’s last interview. I realised how much I share with Derrida, in the sense of being stuck between identities — he was of Arabic origin, and a Jew, but spoke French, his only language, but a language that was not his own.

I am of Korean origin, but was born to third-generation immigrants in Japan, then at the age of eight, I started studying in England. I left Japan because I didn’t like being treated as a foreigner, which meant being bullied at school, on account of me having a Korean name, despite having been born in the same country as them, brought up in the same environment, speaking the same language, etc.

But that was not enough.

This name, something which was given to me without choice, was what defined me, who I was, and to which I was reduced. Like a curse, it was something that was imposed from outside and which I could not rid or distance myself from, at least not on my own. I have a Korean passport, despite having never lived there and having only visited Korea a few times. I don’t identify at all with Korean culture — what I wanted then was to be identified with the Japanese, to belong to them.

But they would not have me.

All because of a name.

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