Strangers in a Strange Land

Kim family photos

Kim family photos

MY FAMILY EMIGRATED from South Korea to Canada in 1975 when my sister and I were 6 and 5 years old, respectively. Before I left Korea, I had no idea where Canada was. With our mother, we boarded a plane that took us to Hawaii, then Alaska, and finally Toronto.

Korean was the only language I had ever spoken. I assumed that everyone spoke Korean. I had no idea what people were saying when I arrived in Toronto. My uncle in Korea gave my sister and me each a cute little necklace to wear with our name, address, and phone number written on the back of it. It was a round red necklace with a picture of an adorable puppy. We wore it around our necks on the plane so that if we got lost, we could more easily ask for help to find our way home.

After 40 years of carrying the necklace with me as I moved from place to place, my children threw it into the garbage last year as they were doing spring cleaning. They thought it was a piece of junk. It may look like junk, but to me it provides a special reminder of my childhood, family, and the home from which I emigrated. Luckily, I liberated it from the garbage before trash day. Now I keep it safe as one of my prized possessions, one of the few things I have left from Korea and from my childhood.

My necklace reminds me from where I have come, what I have experienced, and what I have endured. As my necklace has survived all the moving and tossing around in my life, I too will survive.

As an immigrant family, we had few earthly possessions. We lived in a two-bedroom, cockroach-infested apartment. I had only one little hand-me-down toy doll that someone passed on to me rather than throwing into the trash. My library consisted of a few books that I read over and over. My parents had one car, and they worked different shifts, so they were rarely home at the same time. There was no car at home to drive us to the library to sign out books. After awhile I allowed my creativity to run wild and made up imaginary stories based on the pictures in the few books we had.

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For One Great Prayer

Courtesy Fast for Families

Vice President Joe Biden visits the Fast for Families tent in November. Courtesy Fast for Families

I became a member of Young Koreans United (YKU), a Korean American grassroots group providing solidarity to the people’s movement for democracy, human rights, and reunification of Korea in 1986. YKU was instrumental in forming the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); established 20 years ago to build a progressive Korean American voice on major civil rights issues. I joined the NAKASEC board a few years back. Throughout this time, I have tried to provide a clergy presence whenever I can to show that ending the suffering of immigrant families, including that of the 1 out of 7 undocumented Korean Americans, is also a concern of persons of faith.

Prayers of the People: Seven Dead in Shooting at Christian University in California

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Police secure the scene at Oikos University after the shooting on April 2 in Oakland, CA. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Seven people died and three others were injured Monday afternoon when a gunman opened fire on the Oakland, Calif., campus of Oikos University — a small Christian college that caters largely to a Korean and Korean-American student body.

According to CNN, police have detained a man in his 40s who police believe to be the shooter. Oikos University founder and president, the Rev. Jong Kim, told the Oakland Tribune that the gunman was a nursing student who was no longer enrolled at the school.

An update of the Oakland Tribune story shortly after 9 p.m. EST Monday police have arrested 43-year-old One Goh of Oakland in connection with the deadly shooting.

The Tribune reports:

A former nursing student who opened fire in a small Christian university Monday morning, killing seven and wounding three more, first told his former classmates to line up against a wall before pulling a handgun and sending students fleeing in panic, a witness said....

Police said five people were dead at the scene; of five others who were taken to the hospital, two later died. Authorities said most of those killed and wounded had been in a classroom near the school's entrance; one was shot in an administrative office. The gunman reportedly went to another classroom and fired through its locked door but didn't hit anyone there.

The gunman was caught a short time later in an Alameda shopping center, about five miles away, police said. Safeway employees who did not give their names said the suspect told a store staffer that he had shot people and needed to be arrested.