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In 2018, I visited Korea for the first time with my family. It was nothing like I expected it to be as I realized I was quickly losing sight of what I thought I knew about my culture.

I made a 16-page risograph zine as a way of healing and reflecting on reconnecting with my Korean identity.

Masks in Korea are called tal (탈). These masks were used for performances, war, shamanistic ceremonies and other entertainment purposes such as theatre.

A traditional Korean mask is used as a visual aid to represent how I felt hidden and out of touch with my Korean culture throughout my trip.

Yangban, Aristocrat [left]:The character with the most power, and therefore the object of extreme mockery in the plays. The eyes are painted closed, with deep dark eyebrows and wrinkles surrounding them.

Punae/Bune, Concubine[right]: Punae is a forward and sexual character, appearing in the plays as the concubine of either the scholar or the aristocrat. The mask is symmetrical and made of one solid piece of wood.

Source: Byeolsingut Masks from Hahoe Folk Village, South Korea.

An exceprt from my sketchbook, writing and drawing about specific memories of my trip.

I found drawing what was around me as a calming way to absorb my surroundings. With every line of every building a person I drew, I was beginning to understand the cultural differences between Korea and Toronto.

The way I define architecture is its ability to extend beyond built space, focusing on the power of people that activate those spaces.

South Korea’s urban fabric can be characterized by its winding roads at various terrains and how tightly the buildings fit closely together. The pace of how one travels in Korea varies from North American cities, like Toronto where it is built upon a grid-like structure.

My zine heavily references the photographs I took during my trip,
following the places I visited in chronological order.

I stood out in Korea. As South Korea’s culture is very image-based, there is a standard look practiced by Koreans. Neutral colours for clothing, modest haircuts that are either natural or dyed light brown. At the time, I dyed my hair bright pink, wore alternative clothing and had a noticeable accent when speaking Korean.

Despite having Korean physical features, I felt like I didn't belong.

Smiley Kindo, Jeju Island

Frames of Korean Fisherwoman, Jeju Island

I expected this trip to be the most eye-opening experience for myself to finally feel at home, understand my parents and have a place where my looks and birthplace were never questioned with my hyphenated identity. I thought visiting Korea would be the answer to finding the place I would call home, but it only left me realizing how little I knew about my Korean culture, as well as my parents.

“Nowadays, with the increased use of the term to describe many kinds of migrants from diverse ethnic backgrounds, a more relaxed definition [of diaspora] seems appropriate. Moreover, transnational bonds no longer have to be cemented by migration or by exclusive territorial claims. In the age of cyberspace, a diaspora can, to some degree, be held together or re-created through the mind, through cultural artefacts and through a shared imagination.”
(Cohen 35).


Is my diaspora defined by a figment of my imagination...

...Lost in space?

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