REDISCOVERING KOREA: INTRODUCTION

"I had remembered Korea as an orphan struggling to rise up from the ashes of war and conflict. But Korea now shines with the radiance of gold refined by fire." Nelly Shin

 

REUNITED WITH A RISEN KOREA



I was born in 1972 in South Korea. My family immigrated to Canada when I was five years old. Like many Korean families that came to Canada around that time, my parents left our motherland to find peace and give their children a better future. But establishing life in a foreign country came with many hardships. As I was growing up, my parents sacrificed a lot to put food on the table. We experienced racism. I struggled to meet my parents’ Korean expectations while also trying to adapt to Canadian culture. I compensated for the void of having only a few relatives in Canada by seeing the Koreans in my community as my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.


When our family left our motherland, I remember Korea being under-developed. On my first visit back to Korea in 1997, I witnessed a lot of transition and construction. Then on August 14, 2022, I flew back a second time to Korea, this time to attend the 8th Global Korean Politicians Forum in Seoul. From the moment I arrived at Incheon International Airport and throughout my trip, I was awestruck by the beautiful architecture and infrastructure, clean streets and public spaces, and the hospitality of the Korean people.



The oil of blessing flows down the green mountain forests and into the well-cultivated farmlands. As a diaspora who had left the motherland during a time of South Korea’s growing pains, I had remembered Korea as an orphan struggling to rise up from the ashes of war and conflict. But Korea now shines with the radiance of gold refined by fire. As an elder would tell a child who'd grown up to become a 훌륭한 사람 (hul-yung-han sah-ram) or great person, Korea has risen to become a 훌륭한 나라 (hul-yung-han nah-rah), a great nation. It's one thing to read about Korea's success but witnessing it in person brings me great joy as a descendent of Korea.