My Story is Golden
J P 제피
Communities: Korean, TLGBQ+
Born in Astoria, OR, 1976
This story honors my ancestry and patrilineal grandmother, Yeongeun Pack 백연근, and tells of halmoni’s many renamings and erasures through her lifetime because of colonization, immigration and assimilation.
passed away on
March 20th, 2015 in Atlanta.
Her name was 백연근 (Yeongeun Pack)
when she immigrated to the United States in 1978.
Korean women do not change their last names when they marry,
but she was given her husband’s last name – 백 (B/Paek) – by United States officials through the process of immigration. During this procedure, my white mother ‘translated’ the surname of my father’s family - 백 - to P-A-C-K to make it ‘easier’ to spell and for white Americans to pronounce. Halmoni's name before immigrating to the United States was 이연근 (Yeongeun Lee). During the war, she grew and traded soybeans for beef, cigarettes, and butter to sell on the black market to American soldiers stationed in Seoul. Halmoni was born during the time of Japanese colonization of Korea and was given a Japanese name. She was born and grew up in 캉개지 (Kang Gae Ji) on the Korean side of the mountain close to China, way up north. Way up north at the foot of 백두산 (Paek Tu Mountain). 백 (Paek) is the same as 백 (Pack).
We are of the mountain.
She was the youngest child, had two elder brothers and her family were wealthy farmers who grew corn and rice. Her remembrance lives in me.
Original translation by 이민선 Min Sun Lee.
Poetic refinement by 양다혜 Da Hye Yang, 박성덕 Sung Duk Park, 양생환 Saeng Hwan Yang, and 진초의 陳超義 Jonathan Chan.