No more tears now, EugeneAt a tearful news conference last week, the tall, beautiful and pointy-nosed celebrity Lee Yoo-jin showed local actresses how they can avoid the costs and hassles of cosmetic surgery: Have an American soldier as a father.
Ms. Lee, who is on every Korean sitcom and talk show, came out of the ethnic closet by telling reporters that her father had been a Hispanic-American soldier stationed here in the 1970s. The man married her mother in 1976 but left after Ms. Lee was born in 1980.
Ms. Lee said she had erased her father from her mind, and had no desire to meet him. But then she dried her eyes and declared that she wanted to be known by her new name, Eugene Gomez.
Confused by this, the Itaewon Wanderings’ team of genetic makeup experts ventured out Saturday to look for a few of Ms. Lee’s fellow mongrels.
It wasn’t hard ― we found a pack at a housewarming party in the neighborhood. The hostess was a Korean-French-Canadian, and milling about, just like normal people, were five more: a Korean-American man, a Korean-American woman, a Korean-German man and two Peruvian-Korean sisters. We postulated that there had been a healthy bit of miscegenating going on here in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
We sidled up to one of the part-Peruvians to get her thoughts on Ms. Lee’s story. The bright young hybrid admirably refused to tell us her name, so we called her by the Spanish honorific for unmarried women: “Chiquita.” She loved that.
“I expected it, everyone did,” she said. “I always knew she was half; all Koreans knew it.”
She said the real tragedy about Ms. Lee was that she came from a broken family, not that she was less Korean than everyone else. “I felt sorry for her when I saw her crying on TV,” Chiquita said. “I realized that though I was half-Korean like her, our situations were really different, because her father left her.”
Most Koreans are similarly sympathetic. Netizens are expressing support for Ms. Lee, praising her courage. That’s not surprising; though conservative elements of society frown on mixed marriages, they scowl at absent fathers. As Confucius said, “A child who grows up without a father lacks discipline and has bad manners...but if she’s tall and beautiful, put her on sitcoms.”
Speaking of sitcoms, we’re reminded of that kooky country up North. Few know this, but its leader Kim Jong-il was living in Los Angeles in the ’70s, and prepped for a life as a short, strange tyrant by playing the Louie DePalma role on “Taxi.”
Pyeongyang has an effective way of preventing situations like Ms. Lee’s ― murder. In the ’70s, it executed a top actress, Woo In-hee, for having an affair with a foreigner, a Korean-Japanese.
Now, the North usually kills dissidents by shooting them in the head, because that’s where their capitalist ideas are. We don’t even want to guess where they shot Ms. Woo.
All in all, we can feel sorry for Ms. Lee, for the paternal deprivation she had to suffer and the awkward secrets she had to harbor.
But hey -- she’s still alive, pointy nose and all.
by Mike Ferrin