Korean-Heritage Experiences

What a year of personally profound experiences around Korean heritage! There have been three very key events: 1) the East Coast Asian Liberation Workshop, led by Francie Chew in the summer of 1995; 2) going to the NGO Forum in Beijing in the company of 300 amazing RCers; and 3) accompanying my mom on her first trip back to Korea since we left in 1962.


Just to gaze around a roomful of Asian men and women of all shapes, sizes and heritages at the Asian Liberation workshop, and to see them being close, showing caring, and laughing and crying was a major contradiction to the internalized oppression of believing that “RC works for every other group but Asians, because Asians really are ‘different,’ and we do healing differently.” How wrong that is! Also, I got together with about eight other Korean-heritage people, and we discharged hard on “Where have you been? I’ve been so lost and alone,” as usually each one of us had felt we were the “only Korean” anywhere. We started our first gathering together with a rousing pillow-fight and during our turns spent time just noticing each other as Koreans. Another highlight of the workshop was a culture-sharing evening, which ranged from the absurdly funny to the deeply profound. Francie Chew led with all her heart, mind, and tenderness the whole weekend.


Heading for Beijing I looked forward to meeting women from all over the world. I was unprepared for how moved I was, as an Asian American, to meet women from Asia. There was something profound about being in a country where I was not a racial minority and to see the breadth and beauty, power and resourcefulness of Asian women. It was as if I could glimpse who we were outside of the oppression, for once not defined by the oppression.

One afternoon it was pouring rain and I, like thousands of others, was heading for a workshop, when off in the distance I heard a drumming and gonging coming closer and closer. My curiosity led me to the source, and who did I see but a parade of plastic-raincoat-clad Korean women with big banners and traditional instruments in a procession, their spirits totally undampened. They created a “happening” that grey afternoon as women from all parts of the world began dancing to the drumming, bringing their own banners to the space created. Such emotions I had, as my tears mingled with the rain: longing for lost sisters I had forgotten, pride in their power and spirit, shyness in not being able to speak to them in Korean. I vowed I would make contact with Korean women by the end of the conference with what little Korean I could speak, and I did. Each woman received me as if meeting a sister from afar and gave small gifts of remembrance from the heart. It was marvelous to see again women I had met at the RC Asian Continental Conference in India in 1993: Cheng Imm Tan, Yuho Asaka, Saraswathy Devi. Cheng Imm led a support group of Asian-heritage women throughout the NGO Forum so that we would not lose touch with the profound experience of noticing what it meant to us to be Asian heritage in this international context in an Asian land. It was an important base for us. From that base we organized an evening of friendship for Asian women (RCers and non-RCers) in Beijing, which Cheng Imm led and Yuho and I supported her in organizing. Although Asians in the US are two percent of the population, we are fifty-seven percent worldwide. A big chunk of worldwide liberation right there!


Mom was ready for her first trip to Korea in thirty-three years and had asked me to go with her. I decided to go as her ally because it would not be an easy trip—so many poignant memories of war, loss, and loneliness being associated with it. Mom had been in a Co-Counseling class I taught a few years back, so I offered to do sessions with her so she could have a space for herself for whatever came up for her. We counseled every morning. She was able to rediscover long-lost relatives and friends, lay old memories to rest, and relate to her new life and changed ancestral home without being so overwhelmed or numbed by the swell of emotions. This profound experience for me as a daughter made me realize what a major change it was in our family’s history that although our ancestors had lived and died by this river, among these mountains, for generations, we had left it all behind for intangible freedoms and dreams. It made me appreciate what my parents faced in that decision. It also gave me ideas for doing inter-generational healing work for Korean-heritage people as well as work for Korean-heritage and other Asian-heritage groups who have negotiated the immigration experience.

I am planning to lead an RC Asian Heritage Introductory Workshop in the Washington, D.C. area this year. I have led a couple of evenings on Asian liberation for Asians and allies. I would like to do some family work with the idea of doing Asian family work in the future. Let’s get our relatives close.

On a personal note, I will be going on a trip to Africa for a few months to see more of the world (also inspired by my Beijing trip) with my partner, Stephen. We will be driving overland in his Land Rover. What an adventure!

It is a deep honor to be in contact with you and to share this deeply wondrous and mysterious existence in the world with you.

Unyong Kim
Arlington, Virginia, USA

Last modified: 2014-09-18 16:19:25+00