I was born in Kobe, Japan to a Japanese mother and a Zainichi Korean father and grew up in suburban/countryside Shiga with an older brother and a younger sister. My mom is an acupuncturist, and my dad worked at a swimming school where he was a founding management staff. I also worked there as an instructor for kids and youths swimming classes.
I attended local public schools all my life, and I learned English by listening to a lot of US alternative rock/punk (Third Eye Blind, N.E.R.D., Jimmy Eat World, Relient K, etc.) as well as reading the Harry Potter series. I had support from family and friends, but as a queer youth from an ethnic minority background, I always felt alienated from the mainstream society and knew I had to leave Japan to make something of myself.
When I was 19, I came to the US to study LGBTQ+ movements by getting involved in community organizing in San Francisco, the occupied territory of Ohlone people. While attending SF State, I got immersed in the radical intellectual culture of Ethnic Studies and connected with Asian American activists as well as QTPOC community organizers. I founded a campus organization for queer Asian/Pacific Islander students, and I volunteered for a youth program at the API Wellness Center in SF.
As a sociology major in the Obama era, I gravitated towards the issues of US race relations, East Asian diasporas, and LGBTQ+ politics. Hungry for knowledge to create social change, I excelled in academic work; I was selected as the Hood Recipient of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at my graduation.
My grassroots involvement eventually led me to Korean Americans, transnational Korean adoptees, and Zainichi Koreans in the Bay Area and beyond. Finding other queer diasporic Koreans was as much a turning point for me as my move to a whole new country. In 2009, I became a founding member of Eclipse Rising, the only US-based Zainichi Korean community organization. I was also part of Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans (HOBAK), and I visited North Korea in 2011 as a delegate of the Korea Education and Exposure Program (KEEP), organized by NYC-based Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.
After a short stint in London as a postgraduate student at the LSE, I began my doctoral education at Rutgers University in New Jersey/Lenapehoking while joining Nodutdol. I picked up Korean drumming and even started learning Korean at Rutgers as well as Daegu University. Naturally, I became an ethnographer of transnational Korean community organizing. My dissertation examines how diasporic Koreans' embodied, emotional, and spiritual practices of belonging challenge the nationalistic and heteronormative imaginary of Korean unification.
Graduate school was unreasonably taxing, but I have flourished as an educator working with diverse and hard-working students at Rutgers. I initially struggled to enact my authority effectively, but I've learned to remove my ego and become a tool for student learning. My colleagues and I started organizing workshops on critical pedagogy while I taught sociology, Asian American studies, English composition, and East Asian studies as an adjunct professor. Teaching has changed my life, and I'm always grateful for my students.
With the ongoing ecological and financial crises, I remain curious about what the future holds for me. My short-term goal is to publish my first book, Queer Unification: Community and Healing in the Korean Diaspora. My long-term goal is to give back to all the communities I belong to, no matter what profession I may hold.