Kristin Pak

Kristin Pak/이영숙 was born in Incheon, South Korea and was adopted to Waterbury, Connecticut when she was about 7 months old. She grew up in a very diverse working class community where race and ethnicity were central to many conversations. Her peers were reflective of the diversity around her and had strong connections to their ethnic identity, many spending summers in their parents’ home country, while she struggled to claim her own Korean American identity. After moving to New York to teach ESL and meeting Korean Americans from different backgrounds, she learned that there are many ways to be Korean American.

Ms. Pak has since moved to Seoul and expresses how Koreans adopted overseas have the right to reclaim their Korean identity and feel part of the Korean nation. As a linguist and educator, she believes that language fluency is not inextricably tied to one’s cultural identity and hopes that perceptions of who is considered Korean will change.

Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who records dreamy, melancholic indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She’s also a talented writer whose debut book, a memoir titled Crying in H Mart, is being published by Knopf this spring. In it, she recounts her experiences growing up half-Korean in her mostly white town of Eugene, OR, her path to becoming a musician and her struggle to reclaim her Korean heritage after her mother’s early death from cancer. From her home in Brooklyn, Michelle talks to Catherine and Juliana about her idyllic childhood summers in Seoul, her tumultuous relationship with her mom, her channeling of grief into creativity and the importance of Korean role models in her life, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen Oh to You Tuber Maangchi. Stay tuned to the very end, when she shares her favorite snacks and staples from H Mart! Photo credit: Peter Ash Lee

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

Kristin Pak

Kristin Pak/이영숙 was born in Incheon, South Korea and was adopted to Waterbury, Connecticut when she was about 7 months old. She grew up in a very diverse working class community where race and ethnicity were central to many conversations. Her peers were reflective of the diversity around her and had strong connections to their ethnic identity, many spending summers in their parents’ home country, while she struggled to claim her own Korean American identity. After moving to New York to teach ESL and meeting Korean Americans from different backgrounds, she learned that there are many ways to be Korean American.

Ms. Pak has since moved to Seoul and expresses how Koreans adopted overseas have the right to reclaim their Korean identity and feel part of the Korean nation. As a linguist and educator, she believes that language fluency is not inextricably tied to one’s cultural identity and hopes that perceptions of who is considered Korean will change.

John Park

John Park spent only six years in Seoul, South Korea before moving around the world due to his father’s job as a diplomat. He moved to Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, and eventually landed in the United States. In this sitdown interview with his son Owen, Mr. Park recalls his highschool experiences in Virginia and remarks on his feelings of being an outsider looking in.
It was only later in his college years when he was able to find a sense of belonging through his martial arts “tribe”. In this interview, he expresses how he discovered his happiness well into his 30s and also shares advice for Owen as they consider their next chapter in their lives.

Becky White

Becky White was born in Omaha, Nebraska to a South Korean mother and an American father. Her parents met in South Korea when her father was there on military business and eventually moved to the U.S. after getting married. Growing up, Ms. White and her younger sisters were often caught in the middle of the conflict between their parents’ two different worldviews and mindsets; while her father was cerebral and academic, her mother was scrappy and had a lot of street smarts. Eventually, Ms. White travelled to Korea to learn more about her mother and herself but experienced being taken advantage of in her workplace for her biracial appearance and her language skill set.

Cedric Stout

Cedric Stout was born in Ohio to an African American father and Korean mother and grew up in a military town in North Carolina. When peers started to call him “Black Chinaman,” Cedric experienced phases of insecurity and questioning his identity. However, his father, who went through the Civil Rights Movement, taught him how to disregard hate and instead focus on treating everyone with respect. With two loving parents, they taught him how to love both his Black and Korean backgrounds, but also find identity in faith. In his late 20s, sparked by deep curiosity and a desire to understand his mother better, Cedric made a pivot in his life by moving to Seoul, South Korea. In this Legacy Project, Cedric speaks on the sense of being a perpetual outsider in Korea as a half Black and Korean man, even after spending several years in the country.

Jeanne Jang

In our first Remote Edition of Legacy Project, Jeanne Jang sits down with her son Owen as he gets to know more of his mother’s story in this interview. Jeanne Jang was born in Korea and immigrated to the United States when she was in first grade, along with her parents and younger sister. She quickly assimilated to her new community but also came to learn about physical and racial differences for the first time. Her father, who set up his own company when they first moved to the U.S., has been a hugely influential figure in her life, encouraging her to keep her Korean heritage and speak Korean at home when she was a child. Her father’s relationship with her own son and her own relationship with her father has continued to remind her of the importance of self-acceptance and being comfortable with who you are.

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.

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