Hanne Van Meer

I am a young woman raised in Belgium with Korean roots. I am an ordinary woman with simple desires. I want to feel healthy, to be surrounded by people who share similar interests and to meet a partner who complements me. However, in general terms, I want to be responsible for my own happiness.


My mom is a South Korean adoptee. She was born in the spring of 1970 in the capital Seoul as the daughter of a Korean mother and father. My mom believes she saw her father die before her eyes. Afterwards, she wandered the streets of Seoul hand in hand with her mother without a home. Her mother had black wavy hair and wore red lipstick daily. One day, however, she was dropped off by her mother at the home of an unknown family. According to my mom's recollection, her mother said goodbye with the following words: "When I have money, I'll come back to pick you up". She never saw her again. During her stay with this family, she was thrown out on the street one cool spring evening in 1975. As a five-year-old young girl, she wandered through the streets of her neighbourhood at night. An unknown passer-by noticed her and took her to a police centre in the east of Seoul. The next day, she was immediately transported to an orphanage for newborns. After about two months had passed, she was transferred to another orphanage that housed children her age and older. The memory of her mother did not fade, but slowly she began to dream of a better future somewhere far away. Rare, but at the age of eight this wish came true. She was prepared for her departure and put on a plane to Belgium at the end of the winter of 1978.


All my life, I subconsciously and silently wanted to understand Korea and its culture on a more profound level, but I have only acknowledged these feelings in recent years. I started taking Korean classes at the Korean Cultural Center in Brussels two years ago, where I felt a deep and genuine connection to the country and its people for the first time. In addition, I attended a Taekwondo workshop of ten classes where I was reminded of the importance of (self) confidence. I am currently residing in the capital of Korea, Seoul, for six months as a Korean language student to explore the nation’s culture and history. My main long-term goal is to become a fluent Korean speaker. First of all, I want to build a bridge between my mom and her culture of origin. Secondly, I’d like to use this competence in favor of other English, Dutch or French speaking people of Korean descent who have lost touch and want to reconnect with their cultural heritage. Thirdly, since my arrival in Korea, I have been enjoying the convenience and atmosphere in Seoul, so I might consider to build a future in this vibrant city over time.

For me, this journey is an opportunity to shed light on my mother's past and to discover a new self.

 

Sabrina is a young woman from America with Korean roots. She majored in graphic design and is considering to do a postgraduate in UX/UI graphic design. She came to Korea in August 2020 with a D-4-1 visum and will be residing in Seoul until May 2021. Her purpose of visit is developing a better understanding of the Korean language. She currently studies the language at Konkuk University and is able to make basic conversation. During her stay, she visited her family members in Busan, while she also enjoys to visit drama sights and music events. 


Sabrina’s parents moved individually with their families to the United States of America in and around the ’80s. Sabrina’s father, an administrative government employee, grew up in a household with three siblings and moved with his entire family to the United States. Sabrina’s mother, a (night-time) nurse, on the other hand, moved solely with her parents and older brother to Canada, after which she migrated to the United States. Her parents met at church in Houston whereby her father says it was love at first sight. Houston, Texas, is known to have a community of second and third generation Koreans, while Dallas is currently known to have a growing Korean community of first generations since there is a direct flight from Korea to the US. Back in the days of her grandparents, many Korean families moved with the prospects of a better future in the US, while nowadays I assume some try to escape the hard education and work life in Korea. 


Sabrina grew up as the eldest of three siblings, among which she feels most strongly drawn towards her Korean heritage. However, this rather strong attachment has not always been present within her. Sabrina’s parents, hard working middle class, emphasized the importance of cultural assimilation within the US. Sabrina’s father, who initially only spoke Korean, was confronted with a lot of racism while growing up. Sabrina, too, faced verbal racism which made her experience internal racism as well. She studied Korean up to middle school at Korean church, but quit after she was verbally embarrassed by one of her teachers. In middle school, playground fights caused by day-to-day racism, and rising hormones, were a regular thing. It is however during college that she gained a new perspective towards her Korean heritage, more specifically during her time spent abroad as an exchange student. She experienced Germany’s rich history and culture and the harmony among its people celebrated through festivities, which she could easily compare to the sense of unity within the Korean community. After residing in Germany, she felt a new sense of pride towards her own country of origin and she decided to spend at least six months in Korea somewhere in the future.


So, Sabrina took the plunge and stept on the plane to Korea by the end of August 2020. She has relished the pleasant autumn weather, floundered through the harsh winter and is now enjoying the soft breezes and cherry blossoms from spring. She points her current favorite memory in Korea back to her time spent in Busan with her aunt, uncle and cousins. She enjoyed reconnecting with her family members, while discovering the sea-side city during one of her vacation breaks. She will be leaving Korea by the end of May with a for now satisfied heart, but still some remaining eagerness or curiosity to spend more time in Korea in the future.


instagram: @syunni

Sabrina (지혜)

 

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