The Korean-American community in Los Angeles has been growing steadily over the past several decades. Last month, I had the opportunity to play some baseball with a Korean-American team. Though it was our first time meeting each other, we bonded quickly and just like that, our team chemistry was reminiscent of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers. We looked like we had been playing together for years. Many of us came from different backgrounds, but I believe it was our Korean heritage that brought us so close together that day. There’s a thing with Koreans and their ability to bond together in a short amount of time; for example, even back in the late 90’s, when Korea was going through the IMF economic crisis, the people came together by collecting gold and jewelries nationally. It’s this culture that brought our team together.
We played Seoul High School, one of the top high schools from Korea. It was both shocking and funny to see the team’s behavior and how it differed so much from our team’s culture both on and off the field. This made me realize that there is a cultural difference in sports too. During the game, all of the Seniors from their school were sitting down on the bench and all of the underclassmen were standing in the hot sun. Also, they showed startling respect for the umpires. Most student athletes from the States do not behave in such way, and as I saw them stand in the sun, respect the older classmen, or respect the umpires, I was quite surprised. As part of being in JSerra high School baseball team, which is one of the top school team in the nation, I noticed that each of us take different paths of being successful. For example, when they are running from their hotel to the game, we relax in the car with cool air conditioning; when they respect their upper classmen, we do not really care about them. Lastly when they respect the umpires, we treat them like our brothers. But at the end, we shook hands and had a great game.
Cultural difference does not affect one’s ability to play sports. The path we take to be an athlete is just different from each other. This is perhaps the beauty of sports, that we’re able to transcend language barriers and prejudice to play the game we so love. Even though we have different ways to be successful, it all comes down to one sportsmanship that can support each other.
<Jisoo Ku Jserra Catholic HS 9th Grade