Family post reunion

I realize I haven’t really shared my experience about the first meeting between my Korean family and my parents. Although it was already planned for some time, I didn’t realize it was that big of a moment for everyone involved and I can remember my family was getting real nervous about meeting my parents for the first time. I kept telling them that my parents were really cool nice people. There’s nothing they should be worried about but I can understand their apprehension. I would be nervous too. My parents were a little hesitant as well, like unsure what to do in this completely new scene, something they had never been in before. For some reason, I was real cool about the whole meeting and knew it’d go fine. Which it was.

I should mention that one of the things I learned about my family was they never thought I would be raised by parents who were Deaf. They thought I would be raised by hearing parents. That was for 20 years. So, since my parents were deaf, I had to get an interpreter, which I was fortunate enough to find one. She was able to interpret Korean, English, ASL, and KSL all at once. Amazing woman! I will tell more about her at another time. Since I had already met my birth family back in 2002, then visited again in 2008 to see my newly born niece, and I got a chance to work in Korea for a year, I’ve gotten used to the presence of my family, as opposed to what it was in 2002 where it was all but uncertainty. Obviously, that wasn’t the case for both parties this time.

I must say that it took me a while to finally understand my parents’ initial pessimism about me discovering my family in Korea. Since my parents were born and raised in America where economy was a free market capitalism, I realize my parents were used to the idea of buy-it-and-it-is-yours. They carried that kind of mentality over to adoption as they worked hard to save money to be able to afford adoption. When they finally adopted me as their only child, they thought I’m all theirs and nothing will ever take that away. Needless to say, they were very taken aback when I discovered my birth family in Korea in 2002 and they didn’t know what to do or what to say. My mom mostly said nothing but my dad would remind me that you were let go for adoption and we got you and provided you a good care and home. That’s the thing about my parents, as they were raised on capitalism ideals and also Christianity in that you be nice to kids and provide shelter. I didn’t want to have too big of a confrontation and I kind of let things settle by themselves. And I was busy with school stuffs anyway. After a while, we had gotten used to the realization that I had a family in Korea after all and what’s more, my sister was deaf and married to her husband who was deaf too. So, I was very curious about that part and my first question was exactly how deaf were they? do they use sign language to communicate? or were they more like hard of hearing in that they were able to communicate by talking and do not know any sign language? since both parents and I used ASL, so I wondered if they used KSL. Do they experience similar frustrations that most deaf people generally experience in life? I had questions like that and I basically waited till I met them for the first time and I would get all my answers.

My brother asked me, “So, your parent are going to visit here during Christmas time?” I said yes. He said “Okay, I wanted to make dinner plans for us.” So, we talked about that and what would be a good dinner for everyone. We finally came down to a traditional Korean food cuisine and we made a nice dinner reservation in the Gangnam district, which was pretty upscale. At that time, I kind of knew that we wouldn’t be thinking too much about dinner — it was just a setting for us to meet and since my parents were a first time visitor to Korea, at this dinner, they didn’t have to decide and order dishes, as waitress would keep bringing different dishes onto the table. I also thought my brother or my family could explain some dishes and recommend them, as a way to break the ice. When we arrived at the place, the restaurant looked very nice. It had a nice Korean architecture going on and we were seated inside a traditional Korean room with doors that shut. We were dressed nice and finally, it’s time to start introductions.

Deep inside, I must say it was a big moment for me because this was something I had imagined so many times in my mind, and sometimes, in my dreams. I really wanted for both my parents and my family to meet each other. It finally all came down to that and to my own fortune, I got an interpreter who knew all languages needed to facilitate communication over the dinner table. As it turned out, my niece was the perfect ice breaker as we all looked at her and said words to describe how cute she was. It didn’t take very long before we would talk about my adoption and that my family wanted to take a moment to say a big thanks and how grateful they were for me to be adopted by them, my parents. The foods would arrive and naturally, my parents had trouble identifying which kinds were they and since my dad liked food, he would try them all. My parents had to let the interpreter know that they didn’t know how to use chopsticks, so she informed the waitress and she got some western utensils for my parents. That got everyone to laugh. My parents told my family they had the best times raising me and that it was a blessing to them and wouldn’t have it any other way. My mom brought some pictures of me as a young kid and showed to them. My dad seemed to be having a nice time talking with my sister and she was trying to teach my dad some KSL signs and my sister’s husband already knew some ASL, so they were able to carry a conversation on their own. I knew my mom wasn’t as gregarious as my dad, she’s more on the sensitive side and can be emotional, so I kept checking on her and making sure she’s all right. I think I know my mom better than anyone else and I would often reassure her. My mom had some curious questions to ask the birth mother, especially when I first arrived in the U.S. The interpreter interpreted and the birth mother tried to answer them as best as she could but frankly, it was a very long time ago, and obviously emotional, so she couldn’t remember all of it. I realize it wasn’t that important to remember the past exactly. The point was that we’re all here, able to share dinner together, talking, and counted our blessings.

All in all, dinner went very well and my parents thought the Korean dinner cuisine was interesting and that the walled room and no chairs made up for a neat atmosphere, obviously Korean. My family told my parents that this kind of dinner was very similiar to what the kings from the Joseon dynasty would normally have in their dinner. My mom said “oh really, wow!”

The night was still young and we wanted to talk more, so we walked to a nice coffee place not far from the restaurant and we got our coffee there. My dad thought the coffee was very good, impressed by the barista who made it for him and told him to please enjoy the coffee. And that would be how our reunion went.


What is Jeong?

Recently, I learned something new about this word definition – Jeong. I think it’s a cool concept.

The concept of jeong exists in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese cultures, and the same Chinese character is used in these countries. However, it is very interesting for us to see that the meaning of the same character is subtly different for each of these countries. The Chinese emphasize the aspects of loyalty and reciprocity in relationships when using their jeong character. The Japanese equivalent, pronounced “jyo,” means sentimental feelings with the addition of another word, “nin jyo.” Jeong in Korean culture has much broader meanings and ambiguous nuances in the expression of emotions, and encompasses the Chinese and Japanese concepts.

The manifestation of jeong in a social structure and in social values is primarily through loyalty and commitment without validation, logic, or reason. This can be compared to the concept of amae in Japanese, which is an expectation of behaviors without validation. It is very interesting to see that interactions in Korean culture, whether formal or private, often carry the assumption of commitment. In Western culture, commitment is often contractual and defined, such as in a marriage, instead of being implicit. When commitments are made based upon contextual significance, for example, because of “jeong-related” affairs rather than logical interpretations of content, individuals easily become members of a cohesive group at home or work, bonded by jeong or perhaps even held in bondage by jeon.

Some of the things I appreciate most about Koreans, such as Korean hospitality, I discovered during my first visit to Seoul in 1987. Others, like “jeong” and “euiri,” I am still learning to fully appreciate and often find difficult to explain to non-Koreans.

One of the qualities that define the Korean people is also one of the most complex: jeong. Of the many definitions in my dictionary, “feeling,” “compassion,” “sentiment,” and “affection” seem to come the closest, but none of them convey the real meaning or importance of the term. I see jeong existing between family members and close friends as an invisible force that binds them together. It is difficult for foreigners to “see” this emotion because it is often not verbalized. Westerners regularly tell their loved ones, “I love you,” but for Koreans, these words are infrequently spoken.


Around the Sun 31 times…

Today, I’ve gotten around the Sun 31 times. It’s a fun way to look at this way, as we’re all revolving the Sun. And who knows for how many more. What to say on my birthday? Well, I think it’s going to sound a little disappointing ’cause my thoughts are pretty much the same, more or less, of what I’ve said in my last few birthday posts. Although I must share that in the last few years, I felt like there was a cloud over my head, as I thought deeply about myself, then an opportunity opened up for me to work abroad in Korea for a year. That seems to make a big difference in myself, as I immersed myself into the ways of Korean culture and also had been interacting with Koreans, which I’ve realized to be a little different than the people in America. Koreans do have a strong sense of identity to themselves and quite proud of what they’ve accomplished thus far and the language, Hangul, is a big part of that. In fact, they’re the only country that has a national day devoted to the Hangul language. They dabble in the thousands of Hangul keys on their smartphones everyday. Aside from learning about the culture, the biggest benefit of being able to live in Korea for a year was simply getting know the area and whereabouts. It’s this subject that pops up often in conversations as Koreans may ask you where you were born, where are you from, where do you live, and where are you going to. South Korea is roughly the same size as Indiana is, so it’s much smaller than most people expect it to be. You’d need to have a good knowledge of the geography and whereabouts in Korea to have some meaningful conversations with Koreans. By now, I’m familiar with the geography and what do cities look like. I even snowboarded at four different ski resorts and went on KTX train to Busan to visit my sister and her family. Also, I’ve been reading into the history of modern Korea as I think it’s important to know where you come into the picture. Really great read is here. Pretty much what you need to know about its modern history. I read one book that explains how Korea was literally down to one city, Busan, and had the city been captured, it’d be all over for South Korea to have any hopes of having democracy in the government, so it was a big deal that General MacArthur had a brilliant idea of attacking the Communists from the port of Incheon. You can read all about it here.


Where are our interests?

This has been on my mind for a while, so I’ll try my best in sharing my musings. I was born deaf and was raised by parents who are deaf too. We all graduated from the same school, ISD. Much of my sign language development came from my parents (in the early stages) and the deaf peers (later stages) at the school. Now, to bring this to a topic, it should be noted that ISD only employs 10% of its staff who are deaf. Which means most of my peers sign better than most teachers at the school. I can remember many times when my friends and I would make a little funny joke, teachers would ask what were we joking about but we wouldn’t want to bother explaining because we knew they wouldn’t get it anyway. It’s a cultural thing, you know. From time to time, I often wonder why hearing teachers would want to work at a deaf school anyways? wouldn’t their service better be rendered elsewhere, perhaps at public schools? They can barely sign. Yet they remain at the school, as I later learned, our school pays better than public schools, with the union protection and this is equally important, deaf students aren’t as vocal as their hearing counterparts, they become quite comfortable at our school, controlling things to their favors. Statistics has shown that sex crimes were committed higher at deaf schools than any other school.

Teaching jobs is a popular avenue for deaf students because it’s one of those few jobs where knowledge of sign language is a prerequisite. So, if a hearing person were to take the teaching job, it means a lost job opportunity for deaf people, as most of them aren’t likely to leave the school and stay there till retirement. Also, one most common difficulty for deaf graduates to get a teaching job is they’ll have to pass the teachers certification exam, which tends to be different in each state. So, for example, if a deaf student studied at Gallaudet University and got a degree in deaf education, it doesn’t mean they are ready to teach yet. They’d have to take additional courses in that state, and then pass the teacher certificate test. Whereas it’s a different case for hearing students, their path to becoming a deaf educator is marginally easier, as their in-state colleges have a closer designed curriculum, of what would be on the exam and by the time they’re seniors, they’re well-prepared to take the teachers exam with a relatively high success rate and they arrive at their goal much sooner than deaf counterparts. Then they take in one of the scarcest jobs for deaf people.

See this link – – all set up nicely in steps 1 to 7, upon the completion of the Assessment of Professional Teaching test.

So, it’s not hard to see why the % for deaf employees remain historically low at the school.

That’s one thought I have. Another thought I have comes from a recent deaf event. Two years ago, I excitedly traveled to five different countries in the east Asia over the span of 17 days with my good friend, Bak. One of these highlights was attending the 2009 Deaflympics. I’ve had always wanted to attend the Deaflympics, after having heard from deaf peers, and ofc, I am a fan of sports. But I learned a couple of things while attending the Deaflympics. In my mind, I had thought that more than 10,000 fans would go to this event but not very many people went – I think only 500 fans or fewer. For the opening ceremony, the tickets were literally sold out. How so? were there that many interested fans? No, most of the “fans” were Taiwanese citizens who wanted to see the fancy grand performance by dancers and singers. Also, the president of Taiwan would make an appearance at the event. A deaf friend mentioned to me that there was a bit of politics and competition going on between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, as the PROC recently hosted the 2008 Olympics. So, the ROC wanted to follow that up with its own grand show performance that ended with fireworks firing from the Taipei 101 tower. So, again, it’s in their own interests, doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or not. Though one deaf guy did mention to me that it was the best, most expensive opening show he’s ever seen. He’s gone to five Deaflympics before, so he has credibility.

The next thought I have, and the last one is a story told by my friend from South Korea. My friend recently flew to South Africa to attend the World Federation of the Deaf conference last summer where we did hvac installation with the help of business hvac installation springfield mo. While there, she told me there was a big surprise visit made by someone. Guess who? It was four persons from North Korea coming to visit the WDF. However, none of them were deaf. As you may know, tensions between North Korea and South Korea still remain high, with no peace treaties formally signed, so technically, both countries are still at a war. It was the first time and an awkward moment for them to be meeting one another—there’s even a law that disallows citizens from meeting each other due to the risks of espionage. It was an interesting experience, she said, although it felt like something can go off at any minute and they rush to defend their ideologies and what they stand for their country. Patriotism, you know. Yet I’m not sure what’s their business visiting the WDF and it’s not like they are going to improve life conditions for their deaf citizens in North Korea after they go back. So, my question is what are their interests toward deaf people? and hearing people whose sign language skill is barely fluent enough truly want to teach to deaf children? and do they want to truly host an international event for the deaf people or for their own interests? To be, or not to be, that is the question, my friends.



Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. I’m not sure why. I think when I was little, I looked up at him highly. My dad had a way of dealing with people like how he feels he can get anything he wanted and he was good at smooth-talking. He once told me a story of how he’d steal a HS basketball star’s girlfriend by talking to her often during halftime at basketball games, then she’d decide that he was more fun to hang around than watching her old boyfriend play basketball. He’d tell me different stories and how adventurous he used to be, riding his motorcycle all over America. It was cool to hear how he’d ridden his bike all the way to San Francisco in 1975, spent 4 nights here and that it would be his last such road trip before he met my mom and got married in 1977 and bought a tiny house together. They had no idea that one day, they would adopt a son. He also told me that when he was in SF, he stopped by a small grocery shop. The guy who owned the shop was an immigrant from Korea and apparently, he knew some sign language, communicated with my dad. He was impressed by that. He wondered what had become of the guy.

Last year, my parents flew to Seoul, Korea for the first time ever and I was excited for them that they were visiting Korea. However, I must admit something was wrong. My dad didn’t look adventurous at all. It was like he was annoyed to be coming here in Korea. Maybe the long 14 hours flight bothered him more than he’d expect. “What the heck are we supposed to do now? How the heck do we get ourselves to the hotel?” he’d ask with a grunt. I was a bit taken back by his sudden remarks and I said don’t worry about that, I’m happy you got here OK.” They got their luggage and we went outside to the front and waited for the bus. I explained to them that there were different buses coming here and we would wait at this spot till our bus came. I realized that at this time, they would be of a minority race visiting a foreign country while I, on the other hand, looked like more like the majority race and knew my way around. I was curious to see how they’d react to this and will my dad still get his way around, like he usually does back in his homeland, America?

We got on the bus and sat in the back. My dad was somewhat impressed by this bus as he sat in a comfortable big chair and the driver started rumbling down the highway. Dad looked a bit more at ease now. Maybe he just had a long flight, I thought. I asked them how do they feel to be in Korea? knowing for a fact that they weren’t exactly frequent world travelers. “It’s a new experience” answered my mom, who always had that little worried look on her face. My dad just nodded and looked like he can hardly wait to check himself into a hotel. Where’s the adventurous spirit? I thought to myself. I don’t think they really knew how much I’ve worked to get myself into this position, getting a chance to work in Korea and for them to have an opportunity to visit the country where I was born in. I paid their airfares.

We finally got into a hotel, got into an elevator, and whizzed up tens of the floors, then finally stopped at my floor. The hotel was actually one of the top premium hotels in Seoul normally where rich businessmen or high-ranking government officials would stay at, so I was fortunate to be a resident here at this hotel. My parents seemed impressed, “This is a nice hotel.”, starting to forget the long flight they’d had. I showed them around the suite room, trying my best to make them feel as comfortable as possible. “There is a nice little 7-11 store downstairs in the basement that has everything from water to wine. Do you want to go down and look?” My dad’s eyes widened, his stiff acting starting to ease up a bit, maybe he’s becoming thirsty now. “Sure, I’d like to go down.” my dad said. My mom wanted to rest a bit and she was already flipping channels on TV, trying her best to find a rerun of Days of Our Lives soap opera, her favorite TV program. There were no U.S. channels on TV. I didn’t tell her that.

My dad and I got into the elevator and when the doors closed, I decided to ask my dad a straight question. “I got the impression that you don’t seem too thrilled to be visiting here in Korea. Was the flight really that long?”

My dad seemed surprised by my direct question, hoping I wouldn’t see his honest expression.

“Yeah, the flight was quite long, I didn’t really have a good sleep and didn’t even get the right whiskey drink I asked the flight attendant to make.” Dad said.

I realized this jet lag was affecting my parents more than I had expected and they’re becoming more grumbled so I let it go and the elevator reached at the bottom. Maybe they weren’t really comfortable with the idea that they’re not in the U.S. and are in a foreign country for a good measure, I thought. It was misleading for them to think that their son was always thrilled to be in the U.S. during the whole time. I knew this would be their such last trip too.

“Do you suppose the Korean guy in the 7-11 would know some sign language?” he asked.

I finally smiled.

**Dad in the far background, eagerly pulling his luggage. 3 feet of snow was dumped on this day as they were heading back to the U.S.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Santa Claus is indeed working hard to get these presents in time!

Santa Claus

RIP Steve Jobs

Hard to believe you’re really gone. Rest in peace, Steve.


Here is your assignment.

Mission in life

My mission in life is to listen to my own voice as much as possible and follow my instincts. Whenever I do this, I always feel good about myself eventually and I get the glimpse of the freedom of being outside the Matrix. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s worth it every time. I never lose when I trust myself. -Ji Lee

You were first to come

The Sun was just beginning to touch its horizon and I looked at the clock. Okay, it’s time to head out of work and I made a little quick search into Google. “Seoul metro map.” Images of the metro map quickly appeared and I looked for ones that were the most readable. I clicked on a few images and then let my mind examine the Seoul metro map. There were 9 different lines and each line has a color of its own. Where do I get on? where do I get off? more lines to get on? Seoul station was the one that I wanted to go to. After reviewing a few times, I tried to hold a mental map in my mind and I’d try to depend on my ever reliable memory and I walked out of the office.


On Buddhism

The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.

In criticizing, the teacher is hoping to teach. That’s all.

All know the Way, but few actually walk it.


Seoul Subway Has Traveled 568 Million km

Saw this article in the newspaper, thought I’d share.

Since then, the subway added 10 billion more passengers every seven years, reaching 20 billion in 2000 and 30 billion in 2007. As of 2010, 1.48 billion passengers used lines 1 through 4 each year, which boils down to 4.04 million users a day.

The number of people using the Paris Métro, which started operating in 1900, stood at 1.15 billion in 2010, while the London Underground, which began running in 1863, has 868 million people using it every year. The New York Subway has 490 stations, four times more than the Seoul metro system, but has only 1.13 billion users per year.

Yep, it’s always full when I take subway in Korea for one year. I remember reading somewhere that it was 3 million riders a day but really it’s 4 million riders.

via The Chosun Illbo

Us as readers

As a reader, man is unique among living things. The ability to read—-and, more broadly, the ability to express complete ideas through language——distinguishes human beings from all other life forms. Without language, complex thought is inconceivable and the mind remains undeveloped. The inability to speak and write imprisons thought. In the same vein, sloppy imprecise thinking begets sloppy imprecise language. Language and thought are interconnected, and the written word is the vehicle which best advances both. Therefore, I count reading and its associated skill writing among the most significant of all human efforts. Good writing is simply the result of enormous reading, detailed research, and careful thought. It means studying to gain a good vocabulary and practicing how to use it. These kindred skills should be developed and nourished from the very first for man to grow intellectually. And unless he can express himself well, he can exert little influence on others.

Flooding in S. Korea

If you’re keeping up with news around the world, you should know by now that there has been a massive flooding in South Korea. I was in Korea for one year and during the summer, I can remember it rained almost non-stop. And it even rained more this time. I suppose S. Korea is in an unfortunate position because it’s a peninsula next to the seas, making it more likely for clouds to dump on S. Korea before it disperses out to the sea.

I found it interesting that KBS news channel used Google Maps to show where the flooding was, so I am thinking that Google products have broken into Korea’s public mainstream as they get the information quickly.


There are some good big pictures on

Parents in the subway

My parents looked adventurous!

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