As a young Korean immigrant trying to fit into American society in the ’80s and ’90s, I shunned almost anything that was South Korean. K-pop, K-dramas, and Korean food were not popular back then, and many Americans immediately associated Korea with North Korea or cheap knock-off products. Korean entertainment, products, and brands – I viewed them all as lesser versions of what were produced in the U.S. Culturally, I felt that being American and Korean were incompatible and that one needed to choose between the two.

Fortunately, I was able to evolve beyond this way of thinking. It started when I visited South Korea a couple of times after high school and met my relatives. This sparked an immense and hitherto unknown desire to experience life in South Korea. After graduating from college, I started working in Busan as an English teacher, then moved into the corporate world in Seoul. What started out as a two to three-year plan turned into nine mostly enjoyable years. My Korean improved tremendously and my understanding of Korean culture, including corporate culture, grew to the point where I am now able to navigate almost any situation gracefully.

I can’t help but feel a bit amused at the irony of my situation – the Korean-American who once avoided all things Korean and thought that “Korean” and “American” were like oil and water, now working at the most successful Korean company in the world. There are many parallels between Samsung’s path and mine. We both arrived in the U.S. at around the same time with humble beginnings. We struggled to find our identity and place, but eventually integrated the best aspects of Korean and American cultures to find success. Even now, we are both still competing, growing, and finding ourselves in this beautiful and complicated country – I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us both.

About “Humans of Samsung”

Inspired by Humans of New York, our blog series features intimate stories from Samsung employees sharing their triumphs over diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) challenges, immigration experiences, coming out journeys, cultural celebrations, and accomplishments in the face of abilities-driven obstacles. Join us as we shine a spotlight on the impressive individuals shaping Samsung’s inclusive culture, showcasing their resilience and celebrating the strength that diversity and inclusion bring to both personal and professional journeys.