"Becoming American" by Soohyun "Julie" Koo, The Executive Director of the DC Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs

America, public servant, politics, community service, and working for the disadvantaged. When I lived in Korea, I never imagined that these words would somehow become meaningful to me. Having been born and lived in Korea for thirty years, I had absolutely no idea that I would live as a public servant in the United States, a foreign country in which I didn’t have even a single distant relative. Nor had I dreamt of such a career path. More than anything else, working as a public servant looked, in my youthful mind, somewhat conformist and not so creative, and I had publicly sworn that public servant was definitely off the table of my career options. Additionally, in my eyes, politics was merely a world that existed only in television and had nothing to do with my life. Since I was so preoccupied with taking care of my own business, I had absolutely no interest in community service, not even the concept of it, even though I felt some sympathy towards disadvantaged people. However, I am ashamed to confess that I didn’t even intend to take the responsibility of helping the underprivileged until I turned thirty. If someone had told me that I would become a public servant in the United States who was active in politics, specifically to serve the disadvantaged, I would have scoffed at it as pure nonsense.

*This essay was originally written in Korean by Soohyun Koo. It was translated from Korean to English by Dongho Cho, a Professor of Sociology at Queens College.*




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