June 25, 2024

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a chance to embrace diversity, sometimes within the same family.

This year, it’s even more meaningful to my family and I.

My parents, Korean immigrants turned US citizens, have long-wished to travel to back South Korea with their grandchildren.

So, this past Spring Break, the six of us went on the trip of a lifetime to experience the country connected to our family’s heart and ‘Seoul.’

Driving through Seoul, the capitol of South Korea, is a tour of technological and architectural wonders.

The city of 10-million people is both advanced and ancient.

We began our visit at one of Korea’s most revered treasures, Gyeongbokgung Palace.

It was built in 1395 as the main royal palace and seat of government of the Joseon Dynasty.

Centuries of meticulously preserved history are now surrounded by soaring skyscrapers.

Nearby boutiques offer rentals of the traditional Korean clothing called hanbok.

Visitors who wear hanboks get free admission to the palace.

The country welcomes tourists to experience its traditions first-hand.

So, visitors from around the world, tour the palace-dressed as Korean royalty, including this family from Fresno.

My parents became emotional at the sight of their daughter and grandchildren – embracing their heritage.

“I’m glad my grandkids can see it, Korea’s heritage and history. I’m very happy to be here with them,” said my father, Kyung ‘John’ Kim.

“We’re very fortunate to have a rich history and we’d like to at least hand it down to our kids to be proud,” added Kyoung ‘Sylvia’ Kim, my mother.

The Korean clothing was only part of the pageantry as we watched the changing of the guard ceremony.

The ceremony happened just as it would have happened six centuries ago, only now for an international audience.

It left a deep impression on my daughters, Makayla and Marissa, who didn’t hesitate to do some of their own reporting.

By the end of the day, this royal family worked up a king-sized appetite.

Sizzling BBQ and seafood feasts are just some of the must-have meals in Korea.

Then our journey moved on to Jeju Island, known as the Hawaii of Korea.

An ocean cruise around the island brought us up close to caves and turquoise-colored water.

Jeju has become an international tourist destination because so many popular Korean dramas are filmed in the beautiful scenery.

Our family made fast friends with other Korean-American families in our tour group, including Karen Kim and her kids from Southern California.

It truly is a small world after all because Karen works for Fresno First Bank!

The mother of two works remotely but travels to the Fresno bank several times a year.

While we bonded over her Valley visits, we also shared the same wish: for our kids to experience their heritage first hand.

“I just really wanted to show my kids, I have a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old, Audrey here and I just wanted them to kind of learn more about their culture and even for me too,” explained Karen.

Culture is literally deeply rooted-especially at Jeju Island’s ginseng lab where the ancient herb is grown for its health and medicinal benefits.

Or you can read about traditions at the famous Starlight Library- with incredible- floor to ceiling stacks of books- while sipping on Starbucks.

But this clothing store really caught our eye: A “Clovis” in Korea!

Perhaps a little reminder that no matter where you go, there’s still no place like home.

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