Hello everybody, my name is Michael Jurney.  I am half Korean and half white.  My mother is from South Korea and my father was from Tennessee, he was of mainly Scottish descent along with English and German. Most of my Scottish ancestors immigrated from Northern Ireland; usually they call themselves “Scotch-Irish.” I have some Swiss and Pennsylvania Dutch connection from my German heritage.

My father was stationed in South Korea after the Vietnam War, where he met my mother. They got married in South Korea and moved back to the United States, and I was born in Seattle, Washington.

Growing up was very hard for me and also was very hard for my mother. My father had a great job but he quit to do gold mining. Everything went downhill after that. I was a hobo growing up after my father lost his job. My mother could barely speak English, and she never taught me Korean. My father was very stiff and ignorant person, and he never supported the family.

I learned to speak broken English when I was younger. I went to over 15 different schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. I was forced to go to special education due to my learning disability and speech impediment.

I remember when I used to live in Koreatown in Los Angeles back in the 80’s; I embraced my Korean roots more than my Western roots. My mother had a Korean friend, she treated me like a nephew, I used to call her “ee-mo” (Korean for “aunt”). We visited Korean restaurants and stores many times together. My mother and I celebrated Seollal (Korean New Year) and Chuseok (Korean Harvest Festival) with her friends and neighbors. Most of my friends were Korean, but sometimes I felt rejected because I don’t look Korean.

By the time when I was 12, my father decided that the whole family was going to move to a small town in Northern California, where there were no Asians at all. I remember my first day at school, everybody was full Caucasian expect for me. One student came up to me and asked me if I was Mexican, and I replied “no I’m half Korean and half white.” She replied back to me “oh Chinese!” and after that everybody at school treated me so mean and called me “gook” and “chink” and told me “go back to China!”

That’s when I started to face racism. My speech impediment got worst, and other students and teachers assumed that I didn’t speak fluent English. My Korean pride started to fade away and I started to be more Westernized. As the years passed by, I denied my Korean descent to avoid getting bullied. I used to lie to other people saying I’m half white and half Native American just to fit in with others.

Through my teens and 20’s I went through an identity crisis. I look hybrid. There are people who see me as a Caucasian person and others who see me as an Asian person. People who saw me as an Asian person treated me like a foreigner; it kind of reminded me of how people used to treat me when I was younger. I felt depressed, and had social anxiety. It was so bad I couldn’t visit any public places. At the time, I had no self-esteem. I tried to overcome my depression and social anxiety and learn to accept myself for who I am.

I didn’t know the word “Hapa” until I was in my late 20’s when I typed in “half Korean half white” in a search engine, that’s when I found out about the book Part Asian, 100% Hapa. Reading it brought tears to my eyes. Now I  embrace both of my roots.

My father passed away when I was almost 30, we learned the hard way when my father’s family completely disowned us when we needed their help. That’s when my mother’s family helped us and that’s when I met my Korean aunt for the first time. We celebrated my 30th birthday, it was a wonderful gift.

I’ve learned a lot from my mother how family is very important. I do have family living in South Korea, so maybe one day I can learn to speak Korean so I can communicate with my mother’s family and also learn the Korean culture.

I am both a Korean guy and a white guy. Hapa pride!!

11 thoughts on “Korean, Scottish, English, German

  1. Dear Michael, that was such a strong story! I’m glad you are better and that you are reconnecting with your Korean heritage. I’m quarter (North) Korean myself, quarter Romani and I’ve heard my share of slurs and ridicule as well, both for looking different and for having a Romani surname…people can be awful a**holes. :/ Keep rocking and keep us updated :)

  2. This made me smile.

    Thankfully, growing up in Manhattan I never had to deal with the whole ‘Asian=Chinese’ thing, but people have assumed I’m Jewish (I’m not, I’m Catholic and raised by white adoptive parents) when I say I’m half Israeli, or they come up with other absolutely ridiculous assumptions when they discover I’m part Romany. I look Mediterranean or Hispanic and people assume I am the biological daughter of my Italian father and that my Irish mom is my stepmother. I just laugh it off, it’s cool to see you doing the same even after facing so much racism. Hapa pride!

  3. I did my genealogy research. I’m 1/2 Korean, 1/4 Scottish (that’s including “Scotch-Irish”), 1/8 English and 1/8 German.

  4. I loved to read and relate to your story. I am 51 yrs old, and growing up back in the 60’s biracial children were really looked down upon. Interracial marriages were almost unheard of, Black & Indian father and French and German Mother. So to keep it short when asked by school children, we just said one of three things: My sisters and I always either said, I am “mixed” or “biracial” or “mulatto”. When they asked what mulatto meant, we told them to look it up in the dictionary! Mostly we just said were half black and half white. From grade school, through junior and finally high school, blacks always insisted we must choose to be black. Whites always thought we were white with a great tan. Even though my father was an ex Korean war vet, and very troubled, severely abused our beautiful mother along with all of us, he did teach us one good thing that has remained with me today; to always be proud off who we were; NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE SAY! I know your pain; I know how hard it is to ignore racial slurs and comments. But I’m 51 now and am so gratefull and comfortable for being a part of so much diverse heritege, if I could choose I wouldn’t wish to be anything but what I am. You’ve come along way,and you’re beautiful! KNOW THIS! I will pray that soon you will meet your family in Korea. If you ever wish to communicate more on the subject, feel free to write back, I will welcome it.

  5. Wow, I can relate to a lot of what you have been through…thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate your bravery! God bless you always…:)

  6. Hi Michael

    I’m half Chinese and half German, living in Switzerland.
    I went through a similar situation when I was little, also my father never supported us and treated my mother badly. While my mom also taught me respect to elders etc…
    It was very hard for me too because people were making fun of me and I didn’t have any self esteem either…

    So I understand what you went through. It makes you to a stronger person though :)

    All the best!

  7. An inspiring story really :0
    i wish the best for your future. Keep staying strong man!
    You don’t only have one nation behind you but three.
    take care~!

  8. Glad you like my story. Yeah we’ve been through so much in the past. I’m building my self-esteem and working hard. My father passed away almost 4 years ago from diabetes. I’m taking care of my mother. Hopefully I might see my Korean cousin for the first time next year.

  9. It’s great to hear that you’ve gone through so much and yet managed to put yourself together. Keep up the good work! Cheers, Cath

  10. Michael it is good to hear that you have overcome so many obstacles in your life that has made you stronger. I have had similar experiences with my racial/ethnic mixture in life. There are a lot of people out there that can relate to you, so just know that you have a whole bunch of people in your corner. I hope you have success in whatever you do in life. Stay positive and good luck. Later days.

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