By Kimberly So Jin Kim
I came to the United States when I was 2, sleeping on a plane from Korea in my mother’s arms. In the chilly month of October, 1993, she first set foot on American soil, with me wrapped on her back and carrying two sets of luggage. My father received us at the airport. I just stared at him with curious eyes, as I’d do when meeting anybody new. According to my mother, I couldn’t recognize him as my own father for the first year or so of being reunited with him.
My father came to America six years before my mother and I did. He met my mother during a short visit in Korea, got married and came back alone to continue working. He was searching for better quality of life here for his wife and future child. Choosing to find it in America was a daring decision. He ultimately prepared the way to ensure our family a new beginning in America, although many dreams were shattered along the way.
My father’s business failed in bankruptcy that caused our family to move from Delaware to New Jersey when I was 5 years old. On the day we were leaving, expensive belongings were stolen from our truck. My mother’s purse that had our money, green cards, passports and other important documents was also stolen. I still remember that day, the look of devastation on my parents’ face. Those were truly one of the darkest hours our family endured.
Back then, I didn’t have a choice, whether to leave or stay in my country of birth. I didn’t know anything and was obviously too young to have a say. So it was decided for me that I would grow up in America—and that would mean to be immersed in its culture and taught its history and values: Freedom, justice, equality. I spoke English with my friends and teachers, but communicated with my parents in our native tongue. Despite this I was never able to fully understand them.