"Long Way Back to My Korean-American Heritage" by Grace Han Wolf, Councilmember, Town of Herndon, VA

I was born in Syracuse, NY in 1964, and I am the eldest of three children. I have two younger brothers, both also born in the United States. My parents had come to the United States as college students at the end of the Korean War—My father arrived in 1954 and my mother arrived in 1955, both with student visas. 

My mother came from a well-to-do family (before the war and occupation) in Seoul and was the younger of two daughters. She had graduated from Yonsei University a few years before coming to the U.S. My father was essentially a war orphan who came from Pyongyang and had finished two years at Seoul National University when he came to the U.S. Neither of them had any financial sponsors, just admission to local colleges. There were sponsors in formality, someone signing necessary documents, but no actual financial support. My father arrived with one suitcase of belongings and $50 cash, nothing more.

Both of my parents received their green cards in 1963 and become U.S. citizens in 1970. They were both academics—my father studied at Seoul University before immigrating to the U.S., then received his BS in Physics and Math from Carroll University in 1957, followed by his PhD in Theoretical Physics from the University of Rochester in 1963. My mother received her BA in Korean Literature from Yonsei University in 1953 before immigrating, and then received her Master’s in Education from University of Rochester in 1959, followed by a Master’s in Library Science from SUNY Geneseo in 1961.


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