Korean by Birth, Australian by Choice

Christina Lee is from Cairns, and is studying law and international relations. She is passionate about human rights and dreams to be an international human rights lawyer. Recently, she was a volunteer in a remote village in Nepal and is currently recruiting ANU students to join her in another life-changing trip to Nepal in 2018.

I was halfway through grade one of primary school when I was told my brother and I were going to leave Korea and study English in Sydney. I didn’t even know where Australia was.

I was 12 years old when my family decided to permanently move to Cairns, Queensland. I didn’t know how to correctly pronounce ‘really’ nor spell ‘camouflage’.

I was 17 when I became an Australian citizen.

Now I am 19, and having my childhood built over two continents instilled something special in me.

I have lived almost half my life in Korea and the other half in Australia.

People often ask me: ‘Are you Korean or Australian?’ I thought, how could I possibly choose? I am neither just Korean nor just Australian. I am both. To decide between them is as difficult as choosing your left arm over your right. Is day or night the best? You cannot have one without the other. Australia is my home by choice and Korea is my home by birth. Without each other, my identity is incomplete. Therefore, I am both. To be asked which one would be to deny both because one without the other is only half of who I truly am. One makes the other better; it’s the knowledge of one that feeds the love of the other.

Having spent half a semester already at university, high school seems like decades ago, but there is one night that I simply cannot forget. Formal – an event where Year 12 students wear their most beautiful gowns and suits and head for a night to remember. I wanted to make a statement; I wanted my dress to be a true symbol of who I am and what I am proud of. Hanbok is a collective term for traditional Korean clothing. It is often worn at special ceremonies and every dress is uniquely beautiful. Whether by coincidence or fate, the Australian flag and the Korean flag both consist of the colours blue, red, and white. I’m no artist, and certainly not a designer, but I am a girl proud of her two cultures. As a symbol of pride for both of my cultures, I designed a traditional Korean dress in these colours for my Year 12 formal, reflecting the symbiosis of both countries in me. I had the opportunity to proclaim to the world that I am both Korean and Australian.

My childhood was beautifully created in Asia and my teenage days were crafted with unforgettable adventures within the Australia’s tropical wonders of nature. Just like the dress. To all those who come from a diverse background: embrace your cultures, be proud of the differences. Take every opportunity to talk about your roots. Be fearless.