Hilltop Korean grocery store has an élite secret

Central Plaza Shopping Center, at 45th and Central Ave. in the landlocked town of Hilltop, is a great place to go for food. Drive down the narrow parking lot and you’ll pass Pooja Indian Groceries, Mike’s Discount Foods, Hilltop Liquor and Tasty Pizza before you get to the separate building housing Dong Yang Oriental Foods and Deli If you are looking for Korean or Japanese ingredients, you’ll probably find them here.One regular customer, a young woman named Vicki (no last name) had brought a friend, looking for what she called ‘lazy day food.’ Vicki’s heritage is Vietnamese, she said, but she loves Korean food. “You should try the mochi,” she told me, referring to the gooey dessert cakes made from sticky rice and filled with ice cream in the store’s freezer cases.”I am not usually fond of sweets, but they remind me of my childhood.” Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “How to be a Korean Woman,” at the Guthrie Theater, is a humorous and heartfelt take on adoption and identity

Strive for one as we may, there’s really never a finish line in sight when it comes to the search for one’s true self. The same existential questions keep nagging at us for the entire short time we’re here, each adding layer upon layer of doubt that make it hard for any of us to know our innermost core. Who am I? What’s my purpose? Who would I be if things were just a little bit different? For adoptees, especially those who came from an entirely different culture and are given American names like Rachel, those same matters of identity take on an even more insurmountable amount of weight. Continue Reading

Hana Asian Market in Bloomington: A great selection of Korean and Japanese groceries

Hana Asian Market is located in the middle of a little strip mall a couple of blocks from where Highway 77 (Cedar Avenue) meets Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington. During the last 15 years it’s had three owners and two names, but it still carries (mostly) the same Korean and Japanese foodstuffs as it always did.It was the middle of the week and the middle of the afternoon when I visited, and the small store was already filled with customers. Owner Min Yong Cho rang up the line of mostly Korean and Japanese patrons, chatting with each of them.One regular customer, Alli Zarling, is not Asian but is a devotee of Japanese anime and, she claims, all things Japanese and Korean. She brought with her a group of like-minded friends to what she said is her favorite store. “I love it here,” she says. Continue Reading

BOOKS | “The Grass” speaks of memory and forgetting

In the fall of 2004, when asked what he would do with his imminent retirement, then-City Council Member Paul Zerby said he planned to finish his novel about the Korean War. (Full disclosure: I read Zerby’s early draft as a favor and returned it, as requested, with a lot of red editor’s marks. The only advice I remember giving was that, being a former lawyer, most of Zerby’s sentences — and therefore the book — were a third too long.)
More than four years later, Zerby’s The Grass, a finalist for the 2008 Bellwether Prize, has been published by North Star Press of St. Cloud. The story follows young protagonist Tom Kelly through personal rites of passage and recollects America’s “forgotten war” in Korea. Continue Reading

Japanese artist reflects on Korea-Japan relations in two films

A series of 16 film screenings by one of Japan’s most controversial and skilled filmmakers will include two which explore the relationship of Korea and Japan in the post-war era. The retrospective collection of films by Nagisa Oshima will be held at the Walker Art Center from November 5 through 23. The films that specifically address Korea-Japan relations are: Death by Hanging (Koshikei), to be shown Sunday, November 16 at 2 p.m.; and Diary of a Yunbogi Boy (Yunboggi no nikki), to be shown Thursday November 20, at 7:30. The Diary of a Yunbogi Boy is a free screening and is shown along with A Town of Love and Hope (Ai to kibo no machi). The screening of Death by Hanging (1968) will be accompanied by an introduction and post-screening discussion led by Christopher Scott, Assistant Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures, Macalester College, St. Continue Reading

Dialogue with lawmakers: Minnesota Korean adoptees meet with National Assembly members to discuss rights and roles of adoptees

Whether some strategic legislation would make the way easier for the hundreds of Korean adoptees who return to their birth country to live and work, or the thousands who visit there annually, was the topic of a meeting at the University of Minnesota of nine South Korean legislators with representatives of three Minnesota organizations of adult Korean adoptees. The legislators are members of the Grand National Party, one of South Korea’s more conservative parties, sent as a delegation to observe the Republican National Convention, held in St. Paul the first weekend of September. The group discussed the various issues faced by returning adoptees, including lack of South Korean government funding for adult adoptee groups organized in Korea and the need for subsidized Korean language learning for adoptees. There was also discussion of conditions that perpetuate the continued need for international adoption, such as failure to enforce paternity laws that would require birth fathers to support birth mothers, and a lack of publicly-funded sex education for youth. Continue Reading

VOICES | In the Swagger: College introduces the world of Korean America to one adoptee

I’m currently aboard a flight destined for Rochester, Minnesota, where my parents live, and home to the Mayo Clinic, a slice of middle-class America. My parents are great people. My mom stayed home with my brother and me until we were in middle school, and now works as a preschool teacher. My dad served as an educator as well, and now spends his time driving and bonding with residents of an assisted-living home. They’re polite, happy people, who in typical Minnesotan fashion say hi to strangers and can keep a conversation going about anything, especially the weather. Continue Reading

Lawyer turned social designer: Pro-democracy advocate and reformer Won Soon Park

At age 53 after building his third social reform organization in Korea, Won Soon Park has lately added a new title to his business card, “social designer.” It’s as though he finally has arrived at some terminology to describe the ways he continues to strive to move South Korea closer to the just, tolerant and progressive society he knows it could be. Park’s views are well known, and not just in academic or legal circles. During the ‘90s, he was an outspoken regular guest on a TV debate show, and talked frequently about democracy, human rights reform, philanthropy, and other forms of people power. “If I am taking a taxi downtown, many drivers recognize me and insist they will not accept any fare,” he said. “I’m really sorry for that.”
Park was the guest of the Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Minnesota, on September 10 and spoke about human rights and transitional justice in Korea. Continue Reading

HERE project highlights the Korean adoption experience in Minnesota

For twenty year-old Plymouth resident Emily Mader, being Korean and adopted in Minnesota hasn’t always been easy. Although she now feels at peace with her identity, she says that her adoption process has been an ‘up and down rollercoaster.’ Growing up with Caucasian parents and brother often left her feeling alienated, different and searching for excuses about herself. “I would get picked up from school and had to explain myself as to why my parents didn’t look like me,” says Mader, “I felt ashamed of being Korean.”
Like Mader, many Korean adoptees have struggled with identity issues. Kim Dalros, the art director of the Korean Quarterly, decided a few years ago to tackle the large project of giving a voice to the some 13,000 Korean adoptees in Minnesota. Continue Reading