Banana? Fresh off the boat? Self-perceptions and Dissociating from other Koreans

November 23, 2021 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.

—W.E.B. Du Bois, “Strivings of the Negro People,” The Atlantic August 1897.

Date: Tuesday, 23 November 2021, 17:00-1830 EST
Register here

Internalized racial oppression (IRO) occurs when racial minorities learn, adopt, believe, internalize, and reproduce white (heteronormative) supremacy and racial ideology and practices and view themselves and co-ethnic members (and other minority groups) through this lens. Common across other ethnic and racial groups, feelings of not fitting in or a lack of belonging, changing oneself to appear or sound more “Canadian” or “Korean,” living a double-life or hiding parts of oneself in a “closet,” and expressions and slang terms such as “FOB” and “banana” underscore the lines of acceptance and inclusion. Distinctions are constructed and enforced within oneself and within ethnic and racial communities, particularly where old and new immigrants interact, and these lines are systematically rooted in ideas of race and white heteronormative supremacy, settler colonialism, migration, language, accents, and nationalism.

In Cathy Park Hong’s book, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, Hong discusses Asian racial self-hatred: “You don’t like how you look, how you sound. You think your Asian features are undefined, like God started pinching out your features and then abandoned you. You hate that there are so many Asians in the room. Who let in all the Asians? You rant in your head.”


*Hannah Sung, Award-winning journalist and Co-founder of Media Girlfriends


* Grace Kangmeehae Lee, President, KMH Future Financial Planning Inc. and Co-Founder, Citadel Property Management Group (1st gen)
* Harry Kim, Project Coordinator, City of Toronto (1.5 gen)
* Jean Kim, Co-Founder, LYP Program Inc. (1.5 gen)
* Henna Choi, Lawyer, Karoly Law (2nd gen)
* Edward Jang, YorkU Schulich Undergraduate Student (2nd gen)

At this event, our panelists consider how internalized racial oppression (IRO) leads to concealing aspects of one’s identity and to intra-ethnic othering (calling Asians “FOB” or “banana”) and dissociating – distancing oneself from other Koreans or Asians. Through what lens do Koreans see themselves and other Koreans? How do racial and ethnic stereotypes (about Asians and/or White Canadians) impact our self-concept and how we think of other Koreans? How do they impact our behaviour and our interactions with other Koreans?

In alignment with and building on the series of anti-racism conversations beginning in 2018, we again turn the microscope inward and ask how we might build more cohesion and inclusion within ourselves, within the community and across structural divisions such as migration, gender, language, and nation. As a community, do we experience self-loathing? Why are there very few Korean-Canadians on the Order of Canada (for example)? Do we do enough to lift up and support community leaders? How do we overcome these barriers and build an inclusive and supportive community?

Open to all, this second Korean-Canadian Student Conference is co-organized by the York Centre for Asian Research, the Korean Office of Research and Education, the Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation, York University’s Hallyu-Dongari and the Canada Korea Business Council in collaboration with the Korean Consulate in Toronto. Funding is provided by the Korean Consulate in Toronto and the Academy of Korean Studies.

*** The original title used the term, “banana boat,” as wordplay and commentary on the slurs adopted within Asian communities. While the origins of the “fresh off the boat (FOB)” expression are not widely known, it appears to be have developed in the Commonwealth as a derogatory term toward immigrant groups. Given that “banana boat” was used specifically as a racial term against Caribbean migrants, we revised the title. We apologize for the harm and misunderstanding caused by use of the expression.



Hannah Sung is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of Media Girlfriends, a podcast production company that values inclusive perspectives in media. She is also the creator of At The End Ofthe Day, a weekly newsletter with a people-first perspective on the news. Previously, she worked at the Globe and Mail, TVO and MuchMusic, where she was the Pop Culture Reporter and host of MuchNews. In 2020, she was the Asper Fellow in Journalism at University of Western Ontario.


Dr. Jean Kim is the co-founder of LYP women’s leadership & career development program. she is also a global communication strategist and award-winning educator. Jean was twice awarded the Teaching Excellence Award during her time as professor at the Catholic University of Korea. Jean spent her formative years across 7 different countries, which inspired her to pursue her Ph.D. research on issues related to language and identity of generation 1.5 Korean Canadians during her doctoral studies at the university of British Columbia. Since 2014, she has been proudly serving as a committee advisor for the Korean professional women’s association, and continues to find great joy in mentoring the graduates of her LYP program.

Henna Choi is a litigation lawyer in Toronto practicing mainly in personal injury. She immigrated to Canada when she was 3 years old. Although Henna identifies as a “second gen” Korean Canadian, she is heavily influenced and motivated by Korean cultural norms and expectations.

Henna uses digital art and social media to navigate these often-conflicting identities. She uses creative mediums to express her challenges with identity, mental health, and her struggle for self-acceptance.

Harry Kim is a Project Coordinator at the City of Toronto. He moved to Prince Edward Island (PEI) alone at the age of fifteen. He grasped Canadian and PEI’s culture while completing his Junior and Senior High School diploma. He then moved to Ontario for his education with his family.

Harry completed a Bachelor of Commerce program at Seneca College. He also holds a certificate in Data Analytics, Big Data, and Predictive Analytics from Ryerson University. Harry volunteers as a youth and young adults leader in his church community, as well as a member of the Community Development Committee at the Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation.

Grace Kangmeehae Lee runs her practice, KMH Future Financial Planning Inc., and is co-founder of Citadel Property Management Group. She holds the Women’s Committee Vice-Chair (Toronto) position on the Peaceful Unification Advisory Council chaired by the President of Korea. Grace is a Chair of the Nomination Committee and a board member of Hong Fook Mental Health Association.

She has collaborated with Hong Fook, the University of Toronto, psychiatrists, Korean community religious leaders and agencies to promote mental health awareness by providing educational programs.  As a lifelong learner, she is studying for her Master of Higher Education degree at the University of Toronto.

Edward Jang is a senior student at the Schulich School of Business, York University. He is currently working as a Marketing and Strategy Associate at the Korean Education Centre in Canada. Through his role, he promotes opportunities for Canadians to study in South Korea and explore the culture. His work aims to help Korean Canadians build a stronger connection with Korean language and their heritage.

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