Straight Outta Seoul - reflections on my 27yrs as an immigrant

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Today marks 27 years of living in the U.S. for me, my 4 older sisters, and my mom. On July 4, 1990 my family immigrated to the states from South Korea. I was only 9yrs old and that night I thought the country was celebrating immigrants, like us, moving to this country that day. I was blown away by the welcome. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that was NOT the case.

We faced A LOT of challenges and tribulations along the way…

Racism. Discrimination. Hate. 

I learned quickly, as I started 4th grade in San Jose, California, that this world is full of hate. I faced racism every single day for years. I got made fun of and shunned just because I looked different. No one wanted to talk to me or be near me. 

I couldn’t understand english, but I definitely understood hate. I cried many tears. WE cried many tears. I hated this country because of how my family and I were treated. We were told MANY times to GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!

Usually July 4th is a day of great food, fun and fireworks for me and my family (wife and 4 kids), but this week I’ve been in a very reflective mood…

I LOVE this country and I consider myself a Korean-American. I’m SO THANKFUL that I get to live in this country where there are so many opportunities. I’m thankful that I get to live in a beautiful home with my beautiful family, working my dream job. I’m grateful that we are free to worship God without fear of persecution or death, which my fellow Koreans face every day in North Korea.

As I reflect on the past 27 years, I’ve realized how I’ve often been embarrassed and ashamed of my heritage as a Korean, because of how I’ve been treated, and still get treated sometimes, and even how my kids are treated sometimes by their peers (even though they are only half Korean). -Racism still exists-

If I can be honest, I have a hard time EMBRACING and being PROUD of my heritage. But, I’m continuing to grow in that area.

I decided many years ago as a kid that I’m going to embrace others who are different from me. God’s given me a heart to reach the outcasts because I’ve been an outcast. He’s always helped me see and love those who are not accepted by the popular crowd. And, I hope that my kids (continue to) live that way as they grow up.

So, to those of you who have embraced me for who I am, and embraced my family for who we are…THANK YOU. You truly exemplify what this country is all about. 

Happy Independence Day!