This upcoming election between democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump has been riveted with controversy, drama, and lots and lots of attention. There doesn't seem to be any clear cut right or wrong, as it seems that the Republican nominee Trump has been steadily losing Republican backing as election day nears, while Clinton has controversy after controversy orbiting her entire campaign.
This election means very different things for very different people, as there are countless reasons people are voting for one or the other. People are considering moral obligations, economic circumstances both local and global, governmental policies that’ll affect different people differently, taxes, foreign relations, racial divisiveness, past transgressions for both parties, gender equality issues, Supreme Court seatings, religious obligations, etc.
But what does this election mean for the Korean-Americans of the United States? We too have an array of preferences and perspectives that are unique to the American experience, and with a population of 1.7 million Korean-Americans living in the United States today, we have a significant voice as citizens of this country. Some would say that we have a responsibility.
So what does this election mean for Korean-Americans?
While this election is causing people to consider the future of America with either of its two final prospects running, for Korean-Americans, it would be wise to learn from the past. Our recent history suggests that we've endured some of the most atrocious crimes against a country in the greater part of the last century. As this article outlines, it wasn't so long ago that Korea was in abject poverty as a nation, colonized by surrounding countries, and underwent a near secession in a civil war that involved global superpowers, a conflict that has still yet to be resolved. The turmoil within the country led to the Korean diaspora—both voluntary and forced—that scattered the Korean people to the far reaches of the globe in hopes of finding better living conditions.
At the time, the Korean people were equipped with a neo-Confucian culture, Buddhist teachings, and a newfound Christian identity as a nation, and they traveled across oceans and lands to quietly and unobtrusively settle and live in foreign countries with what appears to be nothing other than sheer will and hard work.
The thing is, we've flourished.
Both locally and abroad, Koreans have found that slow, steady, and constant toiling has allowed us to rise from the ashes of a war-torn and forlorn past to become a contender in the global market. South Korea has culturally set itself as both influential and successful in Southeast Asia. We went from receiving foreign aid to now giving it. We are, in short, a miracle.
What this election then means for us is something different from every other citizen of this country, though they have equal validity in their own stories. But ours is unique to us. While Trump is a businessman and his aim to lower taxes across the board is enticing—which can be good news for many Korean-Americans whose parents or grandparents once immigrated and opened countless businesses to reach middle class status—Hillary's party seems to be more tolerant of immigrants and immigrant cultures. While Trump seems to be both decisive and singular in his resolve, Hillary owns a finesse and tact only offered by experience. While Trump's Republican background promises for the leaning right a more evangelical outlook politically, Hillary maintains that her presidency will see infrastructural improvements as a nation. These are all very important issues, and it only goes deeper and further as people delve into the past of these two figures to get a sense of their character.
The immense influx of information from an internet-era election and the scrutiny with which these two individuals are being considered makes this election seem as if it's a catastrophic event that haunts us in the horizon. It seems that no matter the decision, the future is bleak.
But it's not. For Koreans, it simply is not. We've overcome as a people, as a nation, as families, and as individuals. We ourselves are currently undergoing a huge political upheaval with South Korea's current president on trial due to cult controversies. We'll rebuild, and we'll try again.
As individuals, we seemed reserved; as a people, we are unabashedly passionate.
So, if you're reading this to look for a clear reason to vote for one candidate or the other, that is a right of every citizen according to his or her narrative, but it is not an aim of this article. This piece has less to do with politicking or propagating and more to do with the reminder of our heritage and identity. We are resilient, studious, hardworking, and apparently just impossible to stop. We should do our best to make as educated a decision as we can in this election in accordance to our experiences in this country.
But our responsibility for this country or our people won't end with voting. It continues to beckon us to go home and to uphold our values. It asks us to aim to work hard, love our families, and raise good children. And it isn't to be ignorant and to bury our heads in the sand, but because, if history has taught us anything, change happens in a generation. That's how a nation is made, is it not? While the world can throw themselves against a wall, we’ll chip away at a crack in the system, a course of action no one can anticipate because no one expects that sort of resilience. What we’ll do is we’ll teach the next generation about strength, fortitude, ingenuity, and about taking it one step at a time against obstacles and even disasters and wars, just as the generations before us taught us; their blood is in us.
We must learn from where we've come from and live with the conviction that this too will pass, that our race has come a long way from starvation and war. And if we take a wrong turn, then our affinity to set our jaws and face what's to come with the courage of our history and the creativity of our generation now will assuredly show us that history will repeat itself for our people; we've yet to fail to rise again.