I was born in South Korea and spent my childhood there. I felt empowered early on with my mother as a role model for women who were strong and accomplished. She didn’t go to college, but she worked hard enough to put her two brothers and one sister through school. She was business savvy. Her passion was to own a store for women's fashion. It wasn’t that my mom was so good at fashion, but she wanted to make people look and feel beautiful.
I grew up in my mom’s store and I especially remember the love and respect her customers had for her and trusted her opinion. But my mother knew that even if I were the daughter of a big CEO, I would still struggle to find equality. It’s hard for women in America to find equality in the workplace, but it’s even harder in Korea. Women who do choose jobs often don’t have children.
My dad was a scholar in engineering. But unlike the traditional patriarchal leader in an Asian family, he quit his job to help my mom pursue her goal. My father was the oldest of eight, so he was seen as the head of the family. When he stepped aside to help my mom, he fought against a lot of pressure from the family to stay in the traditional patriarchal male role.
When I was born, my parents embarked on their plans for that business to fund a future in the U.S. for both my brother and me. It was a hard time to take such a risk. There was a financial crisis in Korea and the neighbors to our north were always threatening a nuclear attack. The economy was not stable, but the two of them found a way to make it all work.
Immigrating to the U.S.
My parents sent my brother and me to the U.S. for schooling when I was in kindergarten. But it wasn’t just for the education that my parents wanted us to leave. There were safety concerns too. We still had nuclear bomb alerts from North Korea and political schisms made each day unpredictable.