The Threepenny Review

Colonel Hayashi

ALTHOUGH MY wife and I don’t belong to any Korean-American organizations and don’t live in Koreatown—we live exactly one hundred blocks north of it—we don’t shun our Korean heritage. Quite the opposite: in many ways, we’re hardcore Korean.

We both speak Korean. We cook and eat plenty of Korean food—not just Korean barbecue but also everything else. And we root for South Korea in international sporting competitions like the Olympic Games and the World Cup, partly because of our heritage but also because we see South Korea as a perpetual underdog. Perhaps most telling of all, we’ve held on to our funny-sounding Korean first names that instantly tag us as being different.

This isn’t to suggest that there’s anything un-kosher about adopting a mainstream first name. People can choose to be called whatever they want. There have been plenty of people who shed their immigrant names and adopted a more mainstream American name. Just look at Martha Stewart, Tommy Hilfiger, and Kirk Douglas, to name a few. My own children are named Hannah and Isaiah—although it’s uncanny how many times I have been asked what Asian language the name Isaiah comes from (the most frequent theory being Japanese).

But in any case, driven by ethnic pride, sheer lethargy, and/or an unwillingness to deal with the hassle of tracking down new IDs, my wife and I have both chosen to keep the Korean names we were given. This has often led to some comic confusion. Once, after my wife agreed to purchase

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