Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pan Asian Blend

A decade ago, I started saving my spare funds for a lifetime trip which would trace my ancestral heritage through millennia. I had planned to go from Manchuria and end up in Mongolia. Most Koreans assume that the peninsula was settled from the north by way of China with a mix from the Mongol invasion. But now I have actual DNA results, I am at a loss.

Even though I am 100% ethnically Korean, according to new analyses from 23andme, my ancestors as of 500 years ago were tad more Japanese than they were Korean. My family hails from the very southern tip of the peninsula less than 160 miles away from Japan. Even 500 years ago, 160 mile stretch of water could be readily traversed by even small fishing boats so such race mixing should not at all be shocking news.  

However given the history of World War II,  uncovering a Japanese heritage was not exactly welcome news. My great grand uncle who was studying abroad in Tokyo was force drafted as a kamikaze pilot.  My great grandmother was forever heartbroken over his early demise. My grandfather was imprisoned by the Japanese about to be shipped off to slave labor in Japan.  Thankfully he was spared after my grandmother plead his case by presenting an exquisite cedar box filled with moss and fish to the Japanese district prefect.  My grandfather was simply allowed to perform the hard labor at home. 

It's rather uncomfortable news to know that you share common ancestors with a race that directly oppressed your family members and countless other countrymen.  If my grandfather were alive, he would probably refuse to believe he had any Japanese heritage at all.  And would the Japanese who perpetrated the war crimes upon the Koreans behave any differently knowing they had shared ancestry?

What to make of such a revelation? Well, it clears up the mystery of being mistaken for being a Japanese tourist in Korea and being mistaken for being Japanese in Japan. I think the worst identity crisis wrought by genetic testing was a case of a black American who turned out not to have African ancestry- no more than any other human. He descended from ancestors from the Middle East making him question his whole notion of himself as an African American.  

But 500 years past is distant enough that I need not agonize over my Korean identity too much.  Despite any genetic heritage surprises lurking, I'm now legally and culturally a tax-paying American.


  1. Very fascinating to have a factual approach to heritage. May it be a blessing to you.

  2. The Japanese invaded Korea back in the late 16th century. Lots of crossing that sea from then till now - so everyone there has at least some Japanese blood.

  3. Hello, I am Japanese.
    DNA classified as "Japanese" of Yours does not mean "came from Japan".
    Those are simply "most typical in Japan".
    Please see this figure.
    Your maternal DNA may not be M7. however, you must have those lines DNA in autosome.

    "the Japanese who perpetrated the war crimes upon the Koreans"!?
    Heavy sigh....
    When did Japan and South Korea have the war? Just there was period which Korea was included in Japan.

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  7. Hello, I know this is really late, but this probably isn't accurate. Prior to the v5 update in November of 2017, all Koreans were suffering from unusually high Chinese/Japanese results due to low sampling. There were only like 76 Korean reference samples prior to the update. Almost everyone now is receiving from the low to mid 90's as expected.

  8. Not at all Blake. What a coincidence. Since it was DNA day on Wednesday, I did recheck my 23andme results and I still got stuck with 43.6% Korean 43% Japanese. Our family hails from the very southern tip of Korean close to Japan so it's not a surprise.