Kim’s Convenience, one of Canada’s CBC Gem Comedy series about the relationship dynamics within a Korean family, is a lot like deceptively simple box art, or a series of snapshots in time, leaving much more to the imagination. Yes, it is comedic film. But no amount of coverage, try as the writers may, can encapsulate more than one angle at a time as the Asian-Canadian family struggles to adapt to a country radically opposite of their native South Korea.
It is an irony within an irony that then transcends. As much as the show depends on stereotypes to define the baseline of their inevitable deviance, the characters make cultural norms into an adjustment problem, the defining and overarching struggle of nearly every immigrant family of different do’s and dont’s from what we find in the West. Some seem to adapt more quickly; yet, they too remain “the outsider”. Kim’s Convenience reminds the us of that. What appears or, perhaps, was meant to be poking at comedic archetypes–the immigrant family with their funny accent and overbearing, old world parents, with rebellious adult Canadian-born children, and complete with a black sheep–is a reflection of whatever we want to make it to be of ourselves. For me, it is a foray into isolation, loneliness, and finding comfort in the family unit—something many of my online friends remind me they don’t have the luxury of having anymore, if ever at all. To further point out the irony, such friends of mine are mostly children of WASP-Cs. They may no longer be rich. They may no longer be upwardly mobile. Yet they suffer the same human emotions that I, as an adult child of immigrant parents, do. And, each of us suffer our isolation and loneliness in so many different ways…all of which lead to that one emotional road: heartbreak.
The story of the Kims is not unique. It has been overplayed in too many immigrant families. What is unique is the open-mindedness of the Stoic Mr. Kim, the patriarch whose stern exterior is mitigated by his soft spot for others’ sufferings. It may seem trivial, this owning a convenience store in a bustling, rich city like Toronto, but, no joke: it is the hub of the life of love. We see, in this box art-like snapshot, the quintessential nature of the best of humanity, often disguised in pride and old world sweatiness. The heartbreak in this Hollywood North series does not last long, with the exception of Jung, the renegade who manages to break free of the family in notoriety and reconciles with, you guessed it, the hard-boiled Mr. Kim. Even he, the ultimate head of the household, is a softie and a good hugger.
The Kims, are a breath of fresh air in their ingenuousness. Though the “severely over-parented” children seem on the surface to suffer the most from this dichotomy, it is the parents, with their ever-increasing self-awareness, who suffer for their children while trying, despite themselves, to keep the family “happy” and together. The Korean jokes never grow old, though they be two-dimensional. The story of an immigrant family doing what they know best, while trying to know better, will always draw audiences both entertained by what is heartwarming and challenged by what is our understanding of what it means to be Canadian.