Cory Lemke was born in Jeonju, South Korea and adopted to the United States when he was six months old. He was raised in a small rural town in Northern Iowa and grew up identifying more with White people. When his family moved to Tucson, Arizona, his racial identity was challenged by the people around him. He encountered much more obvious racism in Arizona compared to Iowa and began to realize the environment around him was not a healthy one.
Going to Korea always seemed inevitable for Cory. He moved to Seoul about nine years ago to teach English, and since then has had the opportunity to reunite and build a relationship with his birth family. Though there were initial anxieties about the meeting, he feels fortunate for their openness to him and recognized that having the opportunity to physically see where you come from is a powerful sensation unique to adoptees.
Cory Lemke currently works with Democrats Abroad, a job which has defined his time in Korea. He feels that he identifies as both Korean and American, but doesn’t necessarily feel Korean American as a whole – he simply does Korean things in America, and American things in Korea. Over the years of observing the Korean people in his life, Cory has learned that there is no singular definition of what it means to be Korean or Korean American.