A New Horizon
The journey of In Sook Hwang to America from Korea in 1991
essay written by Marianne Park
In Sook Park, born on March 14th, 1953, now fifty six, continues to thrive and enjoy her life. She is a loving mother, a humorous sister, and a caring best friend. In Sook Park immigrated to Irvine, California in 2005 with the hopes of providing the best possible education for her daughter. Working at the Glidewell Laboratory in Newport for 13 years, Park continues to live her life to the fullest.
In Sook Park has lived in Korea with her family for thirty nine years. However, she yearned for something more, something that Korea could not offer her. Upon this realization, Park decided to step foot into America. Feeling confused and out of place was only the beginning of the journey that Park underwent not only for herself, but for her daughter as well. park took the road less taken, and constructed a life for herself, living independently as a single-mother.
Back in Korea, Park lived an active life, juggling her work, hobbies, and daily activities. Aspiring to become an artist, Park was a member of a community-based society. Together, these individuals would venture out into other provinces in Korea and paint together. Every spring and fall, an artist’s work would be chosen to be displayed in a gallery. Regardless of her passion, Park’s mother, did not permit her daughter to throw away her life by splashing on paint onto a canvas. Back then, society believed that artists were one of the lowest paying jobs and careers where these individuals would “sell their talent” for Hollywood or a cinematic company. Back in the day, success was measured by not how happy one was with his or her life, but by how much money one made from his or her career. Refusing to abide to society’s restrictions and conformity, park refused to go to college altogether. Preferably, becoming a doctor, lawyer, or manager was more appealing to Park’s mother who refused to pay for her daughter’s college. In consequence, Park graduated from high school but was not able to finish her education by attending a university. By refusing to conform to her mother’s and society’s standards, Park refused to throw away her passion to attend a university upon her mother’s will. Instead, she applied for a job at the Rotary Club and worked for her family’s living. Furthermore, Park was selected for a full scholarship to study abroad to Japan. Park stayed in Japan for a year and became quite fluent in Japanese as well. Park perceived America as a country of freedom and a land of opportunities. She was ambitious to succeed in a land where one’s social class and family background did not play a large role in the path of one’s success. Never did she hold a grudge against her mother for not allowing her to become an artist as she simply believed that there will be another chance, another opportunity for her to pursue her dream. She continued to participate in the community-based organization as an active member and finally, in 1980 her artwork was displayed at a gallery. This moment of success meant everything to Park, for it gave her a sense of belonging, and a sense of belief that what she did—her decision not to attend college—was right. Instead, Park supported her family with her earnings from the Rotary Club and sent both of her siblings to college. She believed that although she could not attend the college of her dreams, her siblings should never be under a restriction that she was placed upon by her mother and fully supported her siblings financially throughout their education. Eventually, Park was able to meet a man named Myung Gil Park through a friend. Myung Gil already lived in America and had an established home in the States. Although the two briefly met, a marriage was arranged and the two were wedded after a couple of months. Furthermore, Park planned to move in with Myung Gil and immigrate to America. It was because of her marriage that made immigration easier for her in comparison to other individuals. Park was able to finance for her immigration with the money she saved from working at the Rotary Club. This was the turning point of Park’s life, where a new chapter is written, and the old left behind.
Freedom, equality, justice—these are the words that foreigners may associate with the USA. Similarly, In Sook agreed to immigrate to America because she looked for a new horizon. A new life, different than the one she previously lived. Although filled with happiness and joy, Park found no depth or meaning in her life. By moving to America, she looked not only for a different way of life, but also for a path chosen for her to live. She would keep digging and digging until the day she found her identity. “America, you see,” Park claims, “is not only about freedom and equality, it is a land where there are no restrictions or boundaries to what a man can do or achieve.” Being a female individual, this lack of boundaries proved to be a new horizon, a new world to Park. There are many contrasts between the U.S and America; “In Korea, one could attain a high position in a company because of connections and friends; however, in America, skill and ability is the most powerful weapon a man can use to achieve his dreams”. Regardless, Park was not looking for anything in particular in her immigration. She wanted to open her eyes to something more than what she saw in Korea. Park held the perception that any man, any woman, could become successful as long as they worked for what they wanted. Furthermore, Park loved to travel and planned on exploring the National Parks in America. She dreamed of hiking down the Grand Canyon and watching the buffalos pass by in Yellowstone. This aspect of America lured Park to immigrate even more.
Upon her arrival to America, In Sook was left defenseless against her new foreign community. However, she was surprised at the massive size of the United States. She says, that “No one will truly understand how small Korea is, until you live in America”. Now living in San Diego, California, Park lived with her husband and step daughter Michelle Park. Without any means of transportation, In Sook was stuck home as a housewife. In addition, In Sook was not fluent in English which proved to be the biggest barrier and challenge for her to face. Myung Gil had a daughter, Michelle Park from a previous marriage and soon, Park and Myung Gil had a daughter Marianne Park on the September 18th, 1992. However, after a year of marriage, Park and Myung Gil decided to file for a divorce. The two had different lifestyles and realized that their marriage was rushed. Without enough time to understand and learn a little more about each other, the two constantly bickered and got into arguments. Eventually, during a heated argument, Myung Gil struck Park across her left side of her face, bruising not only her face but her dignity and soul as well. From this moment, Park decided, “I will never let anyone tell me what I can and what I cannot do. This is my life and no one can take that away from me”. That night, Park took her 2 year old child Marianne and walked out of the house, and filed for a divorce the next day. Park simply believes that she and Myung Gil were destined for different paths and must go their own ways. To this day, Park believes that America is a land where there are no limits or boundaries because of the life that she created for herself and by herself.
Now, a single mother with a two year old child, Park was now alone, with no family or friends. Eventually, she decided to send Marianne back to Korea for two years under the care of her sister, while she studied to become a dental technician. Every day, she woke up at 5:30 AM and swim for an hour in a local Bally gym. Then from 7:00AM until 4:00 PM, she attended an educational institute in the dental field. Park’s day did not end just there, from 5:00PM to 12:00 PM she worked at a café nearby her school called Rose Café. There, she worked in the kitchen and made a living off of washing dishes and performing menial work for minimum wage. She carefully saved her earnings and also earned a license and bought a car. Two years and 36 days, Park diligently worked and studied for a living and was eventually hired to work at Glidewell Laboratory as a dental technician in the Biotemps department. She flew back to Korea to pick up her daughter, now four, and came back to America. As a single mother, adjusting to her new American life was quite difficult. In Sook moved from San Diego, CA to Garden Grove, CA where Marianne attended Shalom Pre- School. She rented a one room apartment and worked from 8:00AM until 10:00PM. Marianne was sent from school, to an afterschool, to a day care. She began to attend adult school to learn English; however, because of schedule conflicts she was unable to continue. She began to learn golf from a co-worker and made golf her new passion. Although she has not forgotten about her love for art, In Sook frequently visits museums and art shows such as the Pageant of the Arts in Laguna Beach. Nonetheless, Park continued to look forward and never looked back at her past. Park applied for her citizenship to become a full citizen in the United States of America. She claims that on the day she swore an oath to the nation, she “felt like she could fly and no one could stop her”. She congratulated herself by buying a set of golf clubs.
Park has frequently traveled back to Korea. Park misses her friends in Argentina, Busan, Korea, and in various parts of the world. She frequently reminiscences about her siblings and deceased mother by looking through albums or by looking through old letters. Moreover, Park still keeps in touch with her friends in Argentina and invites them to her home when they have business to attend to in America. However, she never regrets immigrating to America. She claims that she would have never planned on immigrating if she had any hesitations or doubts about her decision. Confidently, Park went on with her plan and created a life for herself in Irvine, CA. If faced with any challenge or hardship at her workplace, Park would remember her schedule back when she was receiving her dental education. Every day, she would wake up at 5:30 AM and swim for an hour in a local Bally gym. Then from 7:00AM until 4:00 PM, she attended an educational institute in the dental field. Park’s day did not end just there, from 5:00PM to 12:00 PM she worked at a café nearby her school called Rose Café. With this, she continued to move forward and never looked back. Even to this day, the fact that Park was not fluent in English has always been a restriction and a limit to what she could achieve in the US. English was the barrier that kept her from flying to her full potential. Conversing with her neighbors or people in her community was far more than just difficult. To some extent, Park seemed like an alien to her neighbors even though she has been living in their community for several years. However, Park did not let her language become a thicker barrier for her. She decided that she will do whatever it takes to succeed and will nurture her daughter with everything she has. She had come too far to give up on not only her life, but her daughter’s as well. Nonetheless, Park was not sure or planned on living in America forever. She considered maybe a year or two, or maybe even five years of residency. To this day, Park regrets focusing on Japanese when she traveled to Japan some years ago. She regrets because she could’ve attended English school and learned English instead. Nonetheless, learning Japanese has helped her in her life journey but learning English instead of Japanese would have made a bigger difference in her life. Regardless, Park has grown to love the U.S and decided to live with her daughter here in America for the rest of her life. She has found a life worth living for and built her character from her failures and mistakes. In 2005, Park faced a challenge that not even she could control. Park was diagnosed with a tumor in the inside of her stomach. The doctors told her that her life could have been threatened if she had come in any later. Park underwent surgery to remove her tumor as thoughts swarm and clouded her mind, thoughts like “What would happen to Marianne if this surgery wasn’t successful?” It was this time period where Park had time to reflect upon her life. Park’s tumor proved to be another barrier and could have resulted in a more catastrophic barrier than her lack of fluency in English. The doctors had to remove her fallopian tubes as well. Upon her recovery, Park decided to travel once again. Every year, she and her daughter would take a road trip to Yosemite. On her checklist of places to travel, Red Wood National Park, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, Yellowstone, Sequoia National Park, Bryce Canyon have all been checked off. Traveling became her haven and Park frequently went on camping trips and vacations. She wanted to show her daughter the world and did her best to do everything she could to do so. Furthermore, Park loved to travel and planned on exploring the National Parks in America. She dreamed of hiking down the Grand Canyon and watching the buffalos pass by in Yellowstone. This aspect of America lured Park to immigrate even more. Park travelled to Argentina and Mexico as well where she stayed with her childhood friend from Korea. Although Park stopped painting, she still hangs up her previous artworks all over her house as a token of success. She plans to attend art school and go back to her passion once her daughter has graduated from college. Hopefully, this will be the opportunity that Park has been waiting for since her life back in Korea. The inability to pursue her passion and receive a higher education as an art major never discouraged her Instead, she continues to look forward and drive to a new horizon, a new found life on American soil.
In Sook Park has come a long way from Korea to America. Through her immigration she has grown as an individual and as a parent and lives to this day as a strong woman. Every day, she thanks God for the blessing she has been given and the opportunity she has been gifted with to live a life so meaningful. Through her hard work and diligence, Park has found herself a new life and managed to escape from previous life. By learning from her mistake, Park acknowledges her failures and learns from her pain. By embracing her scars and wounds, Park continues her journey on this adventurous trek. In a land of equality, in a land of freedom, let freedom truly ring.
1. Park, Marianne Personal interview. 22 May 2009. 2, 3.
2. Park, 22 May 2009, 5.
3. Park, Marianne. Personal interview. 24 May 2009, 10.
4. Park, 24 May 2009, 11.