NAYA: David Kim

Meet classical violinist David Kim. A child prodigy since the age of six, David fiercely trained to be a world-class violinist under his mother’s intense supervision. In this first installment of NAYA, David graciously invites us to his home and the music hall where we explore his passion for music and the journey that led him to become the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. NAYA (나야), produced by KoreanAmericanStory.org, is a mini-documentary series that paints vivid, visual stories of unique Korean American individuals and passion for their craft.

Chang-rae Lee

Chang-rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, On Such a Full Sea, A Gesture Life, Aloft, and The Surrendered, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest novel, My Year Abroad, is a dazzling tale about an American college student whose life is upended when he travels to Asia under the wing of a mysterious Chinese American entrepreneur. From his home in San Francisco, where he’s on sabbatical from his position as a professor at Stanford, Chang-rae talks with Catherine and Juliana about overcoming the pressures of being “the first” well-known Korean American novelist, developing his early love of writing as a student at Exeter, and the way his mother’s early death from cancer at age 52 may have influenced his decision to pursue writing as a career. He also shares stories about his parents (we learn his mother was featured in Time magazine in 1956!) and his fond memories of the Korean church summer camp he attended as a kid.

Our Mission

To capture, create, preserve and share
the stories of the Korean American experience
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Legacy Project

To capture, create, preserve and share the stories of the Korean American experience by supporting and promoting storytelling

Kam Redlawsk

Kam Redlawsk was born in Daegu, South Korea in 1979 and adopted by an American family in Michigan in 1983. Growing up in an almost entirely white community, she was made to feel like an outsider for her physical differences. It was during college that Ms. Redlawsk was diagnosed with what is known today as GNE myopathy, a rare genetic disease that leads to weakness and wasting in one’s muscles and affects only around one thousand people worldwide. Today, she uses her skills and artistic talent for advocacy and spreading awareness about rare diseases like hers. Dealing with loneliness and watching her disease progress to affect more and more of her physical abilities over time only pushed her to live life to the fullest by seeking out new experiences. In sharing her experiences as a Korean adoptee and someone affected by a physical disability, she hopes to spread the message that everyone has their own reserves of unlimited courage and that empathy can only be built when people begin to seek out each other’s differences.

Esther Jung

Born in Seoul, Esther Jung spent her early childhood in California after her parents decided to immigrate to the United States when she was two years old during the South Korean IMF crisis. Her parents worked odd jobs to provide for their family, and the resilience of her mother in the face of hardship left a lasting impression on her. Upon moving to Phoenix, Arizona when she was in second grade, she began to notice the physical differences between herself and her peers. In realizing these differences, however, Ms. Jung became more determined to claim her heritage and be proud of her Korean roots. Most recently, her study abroad experience in Kenya fueled her passion for the empowerment of women and children, further inspiring her to follow in the footsteps of the many strong women she had met throughout her life.

D. Haejin Bang

D. Haejin Bang grew up in Koreatown in the city of Los Angeles, California, surrounded by Korean American peers. Growing dissatisfaction with the Korean American community’s lack of empathy towards other marginalized groups led to their own personal struggle with their cultural and ethnic identity and eventual distancing from the community. Music had always been a source of strength and solace, but after a profound experience at a pansori concert, Haejin was led to redirect their studies to traditional Korean music. Through these studies, they found themselves reclaiming their cultural identity after spending several years away from Korean communities and learning more about the history of people in the Korean diaspora.

Pak Myung Sook

Pak Myung Sook was born in 1929 in Seoul, South Korea, during a time when the country was under Japanese rule. During the outbreak of the Korean War, her father, who had worked as a police officer, was kidnapped, leaving her mother to care for her four younger siblings on her own. Ms. Pak’s mother sought strength in her religious faith, helping her entire family to become devoted Christians After growing up during a time of cultural and social repression, Ms. Pak then experienced the horrors of war, suffering the loss of her child when she fled to seek refuge. After the war, she immigrated to America when her husband’s company went bankrupt and began to build a new life with her family. Her stories depict how important it is to find comfort and strength in one’s family and keep moving forward, no matter what.

Audrey Jang

Born in Gwangju, South Korea but raised in Los Angeles for most of her life, Audrey Jang attended Catholic school in California before attending boarding school in Connecticut for four years in high school. As her father traveled back and forth in between California and Korea due to work, Audrey stayed in California with her mother and sister, seeing her father less and less before he decided to stay permanently in Korea. Due to their immigration status, they were unable to leave the country for thirteen years. From her experience with applying for financial aid in college as a non-citizen to her own personal confrontations of her identity, Ms. Jang experienced the challenges associated with not being a U.S. citizen firsthand. After receiving her green card in the past year, she speaks about unpacking her identity while contemplating two possible futures for herself in either Korea and America.

Alison Choi

Alison Choi was born and raised in Hong Kong, before permanently moving to the United States in 2015. Both of her parents grew up in the United States, and her American roots, coupled with her Korean heritage, gave her a unique cultural identity. While Ms. Choi felt in tune with her American identity, her Korean one was harder to reconcile with growing up in Hong Kong due to the relative lack of Korean-Americans in her community. It wasn’t until she began attending college that she was able to more directly confront and understand her Asian-American identity. She first immersed herself in the history of different ethnic groups in the United States before delving into Asian-American studies. Ms. Choi began to document stories not only about her own family but also about the intersection and interaction between Korean-American and Black communities. Her journey of discovering and exploring her identity speaks to her sense of purpose and her motivation to contribute to the community she is a part of.

All content has been recorded in advance prior to the US outbreak of COVID-19.

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