My name was 성숙 (Sung Sook).
My name is Erika.

I have been many persons to many people in many places. Learn more.

What’s Up?

What’s Next?

  • Recently some lady on the street called me a chink… I’ll tell you all about it.
  • Defining My Place in the Adoptee Community

Oh, ma…

…I like stupid jokes and plays on words like that, so if we ever meet in person and you do or say something that seems ridiculous to me—your 30-something, American daughter—I’ll probably roll my eyes and say, “Oh, ma!” Get it?! American but Korean at the same time! Haha!

You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, Omma. This time it was the wrinkles appearing around my eyes that got me thinking about you non-stop. Now that the lines have set in, I’m very concerned about aging, and I wonder how I’m going to age and what I’ll look like when I’m a sexagenarian. Do you use Facebook, Omma? Can you send me a picture of you?

Last month, my good friend Jinny (she’s Korean Korean, Omma; yes, I do have real Korean friends, you know) came back from the Motherland and brought me some of those snail face masks that are all the rage these days… (Oh, ma! I know that they don’t make people angry! “All the rage” means extremely popular, sheesh…) Anyway, I’ve been using them and they’re wonderful. They make my cheeks as smooth as Penelope’s (I know, I know, feel free to give her a Korean nickname or something; I’d actually like that.)

Omma, what skincare products have you used and do they really work? What? Yes, I’ve started to take more precautions toward sun exposure. I wear sun cream, Penelope too. What? Oh, ma! Visors are for ajummas; even I know that.

Anyway, Omma, after I spent a few days obsessed and feeling paranoid about my face, we got some bad, bad news that has really rocked my American family—my husband’s family. I can’t go into details right now, but it’s shocking and terrible and hurtful. And, just as I have all my life, when I feel incredibly upset about something, I cry for you. My American mother is wonderful and I love her very much, but she’s just not the call-me-up-and-tell-me-everything type of mom—we’ve never shared that closeness. What? Oh, ma! No, I don’t think it’s an adoption thing, don’t worry; it’s her personality and communication style.

Anyway, Omma, I’ve been crying for you—sometimes in bed, sometimes while I make lunch, sometimes when I’m walking the dog. You’re my mother; maybe you could help. What? No, no, it’s ok! Really! It brings me comfort just thinking that you might understand. Or that you could tell me how to get rid of the bags under my eyes. Ha!

A few nights ago when I was feeling particularly bad, I started craving Korean food. It seemed weird to me at first because (now, don’t get upset…) I’ve never really craved Korean food before. Yes, yes, I like Korean food; it’s just never been my go-to! (“Go-to” is something you always choose first.) But that night I dragged Adam to K-town (no, it’s just one street; can you use Google Maps?) and he even ordered for me: “One kimchi bokumbop and one… number 12.” The girl giggled because she knew he got intimidated by the word “yukaejang.” Haha!

As I ate, I started to wonder if my craving was some weird innate thing because you ate those foods when you were pregnant. Then I wondered if my craving was some subconscious way I was trying to feel closer to you—was it comfort food?

Anyway, Omma, I have to wrap this up… (What? Oh, it means “finish now”) …Yeah, I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been on my mind every day for weeks now. I know you’re not perfect and that you’re actually full of flaws just like the rest of us, but the thought of you brings me comfort, laughs… (Oh, ma! Not at you, no!)

If I ever meet you one of these days, I’ll show you these letters so I don’t forget to tell you anything. And maybe you’ll proud… or not so proud… because really, Omma, sometimes my real life would upstage even the BEST K-dramas you’ve ever seen.


Thanks, Aimee.

Last week I received the terribly sad news that my friend Aimee Bang, one of the first Korean adoptees I met in NYC, had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. We weren’t incredibly close: we weren’t “we go back 10 years” or “bye, call me in the morning!” kind of friends, but she made a lasting impact on my life. In 2012, being new to the city and not having family in the area, Aimee was the very first person to visit me after I had my daughter, who then wore the sweater Aimee gave her in her passport picture six months later.

It’s not the visit or the baby gift, though, that I will remember most about Aimee. What will stick with me forever is our conversations about being KADs and finding our places within the community.

Aimee wasn’t the kind of adoptee who would meet you, then immediately bombard you with information and save-the-dates about adoptee events. She wasn’t the kind of person who constantly introduced you as her “adoptee friend” or assumed that every time you’d get together, you wanted to eat Korean food or throw back some soju. She just wanted to be a friend—no modifiers—and, over time, we bonded over our mutual annoyance of the aforementioned personality types. Back in 2012, Aimee blogged about that, and what I especially like about that post is when she concluded “My story is my own. It is distinct and exclusively flawed. Please do not try and take this away from me. I am not you and you are not me.”

Back in 2012 when I started this journey, Aimee showed me that it’s entirely possible and okay to be involved in the KAD community without—and I’m going to be frank here—letting everyone else’s experience, expectations, and, well, baggage weigh me down or determine how I’d continue on my own journey. In those days, I confided a lot in Aimee because she never suggested that I “see someone” or blamed my own identity crisis on my adoptive parents or told me that I should feel like a victim… she would just let me talk; she let my story be my own.

So when I say, “Thanks, Aimee, for your quiet independence and strength,” I imagine her looking right at me, smiling, shrugging her shoulders and saying, “It’s okay.”