seul ki park

owlcitythenovel  asked:

I have a question about names! =) I'm writing a Wrinkle-In-Time-esque fantasy novel and my main protagonist is a mixed Korean-American teenage girl (White mom, Korean-American dad. She looks more like her dad). Her name is Samantha Park, but I was thinking of giving her "Seul-Ki" as a middle name, to help indicate the Korean part of her along with her physical characteristics. Is "Samantha Seul-Ki Park" appropriate for a Korean-American girl? Also, would "Spark" be an okay pet-name for her?

Naming my Korean character 슬기

Hello, owlcitythenovel! I have two answers for you:

Short answer: Yes, Seul-Ki would be fine. It’s an indigenous Korean name (고유어 이름) meaning “wisdom” or “wise”. Wikipedia says it was the 8th most popular girl’s name in 1990! In fact, there are a lot of famous Koreans with this name.

As for “Spark” as a nickname, sure! I will say, though, that “Spark” may be difficult for Korean-speakers to pronounce, so if she has grandparents or other family that speak predominately Korean, they probably would simply call her 슬기 or Sammy. Many nicknames (in English) end up with vowel sounds, like -y or -o, so it may be more likely that people call her “Sparky” or “Sparko”. (Another common convention in nicknames is a rhyme/repetition, like Spark-Park). Regardless, “Spark” by itself is inoffensive afaik.  

Long answer: While this is a totally appropriate name for your character, please don’t feel like it is *necessary* for her to have a Korean name in order to for her to be Korean or to show a connection to Korean culture.

Case in point: my children are biracial and both have Korean names. My older child has a Hebrew name that has a well-known Korean equivalent, so no one in my family uses their Korean name and just uses the Korean equivalent of their name. My younger child, however, has an American name that’s difficult to pronounce for Korean-speakers, so most of my family simply uses their Korean name. My niece and nephew are monoethnically Korean and both have Korean names, but since their American names are simple to pronounce for Korean-speakers, nobody ever uses their Korean names. None of these children have a Korean name on their birth certificates~

So! My point is that it isn’t necessary to have a Korean name or have it be commonly used in order to be Korean-American. Many third generation Korean-Americans I know do not have Korean names, or rarely use theirs. (I actually know a few third gen Korean-Americans who *only* have Korean names, but they use an American equivalent with English-speaking folks, like they would use Jean if their name was JinJoo).

Some biracial Korean-Americans find it very challenging to navigate their identity. Others find it very simple! I would encourage you to continue researching how biracial Korean-American and their experiences as you write your novel.

Best of luck! Wrinkle-in-Time was one of my absolute favorite novels as a child, and seeing a biracial Korean-American as a protag in a similar story would be awesome. I hope this project goes great for you :)

~mod Stella