Jong P. is a 75-year-old senior who is currently living in the Menlo Apartment with her husband. She was born in Masan, South Korea and studied Theology at a small college in Seoul, South Korea. Jong and her husband worked as a pastor in Korea, and then immigrated to America after receiving a pastoral invitation. Now, she is retired and spends most of her time at home. In her free time, she loves to go on hikes at Griffith Park, walk around the neighborhood, read the Bible, and meet with her church friends. During this pandemic, she hopes that many people would not take advantage of this time and believe that God will protect them at all costs.
What is your hometown?
My hometown is Masan, South Korea. Masan is a small, coastal city near Busan and Jinju. Because this city is near the ocean, you get to eat many fresh kinds of seafood. It’s a great place to live in and I think it’s beautiful.
I lived in Masan for 18 years and then I moved to Seoul, South Korea. I moved to Seoul because I had to transfer to another high school and I also attended college there. I majored in Theology in a small college and continued my life from there.
I was born in 1949 which is one year before the Korean War started. My parents’ hometown was Seoul, South Korea, but they had to seek refuge and evacuate to the South. During the evacuation, I was only seven months old, and my mother told me that I cried a lot. I don’t know why I cried so much, but I think I was really sick. Because of me, it was really hard for my parents to hide. I can’t really remember in detail what we went through because I was so young. But, what I recall the most is how gruesome it was for my parents.
My parents believed in Shamanism when I was young. However, before we evacuated to Masan, my mother met a grandma who was Christian. She would always pray for our family and share God’s words with her. When we went to Masan, my mother started to pray and study the Bible. Because of the grandma, our family was able to create a new and strong relationship with God and become Christians.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I decided to come to America because my husband and I got a pastoral invitation. We moved to Bakersfield at first and lived there until 2005. Then, we moved to Koreatown. One of the main reasons we moved to Koreatown was because our church is here. It took way too long to get to our church from Bakersfield, so we decided to move to somewhere closer. Now, I live in the Menlo Apartment for low-income families, which is located north of Koreatown near Hannam Chain Supermarket.
The most difficult part of coming to America was the language barrier. I didn’t have the chance to learn English because I came to America way too late. One time in Bakersfield, I went to an American market, a place where white people went to, and I noticed that the cashier was putting all the groceries into the bags for them, but not us. We had to do it on our own. But, at that time, since I wasn’t very good at English, I couldn’t even complain about it.
Another hardship I went through was the difference in culture. Korea is based on Confucianism, which is basically a system explaining to you the “way of life”. Also, Koreans tend to get easily attached to people and have a passive personality while Americans tend to be blunter and have a more active personality.
I came across Menlo by pure luck. There was a person that was already living in Menlo, and she told me that if I submitted an application to this apartment, I would be able to live here. The neighborhood was really nice and it was near a police station and a Korean market. I thought it would be very convenient. One day, I think they chose people by raffle, and I got chosen. I was one of the first people to live here. It’s been almost seven years now.
When I first started living in Menlo, there weren’t that many Koreans. Most of the residents were African American or Mexican. I was one of the first Koreans to start living in Menlo. I think Menlo is a great place to live for low-income families; however, there are some kids who are very rough and wild. Sometimes, they just leave their trash and belongings on the floor or tables and create a mess around the apartment. But it’s better now because the kids have grown up. I also wish there was a playground for little kids or a rest area for the elders. Other than that, I like it here.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
At first, Koreatown was very dirty, but the more I live here, I’m realizing that it’s a great place for old people. Koreatown is a place where you don’t have to speak English. There are Korean markets and hospitals, so it’s very convenient. I think all the elders want to come here to live. Everything is in one place, so it’s convenient and easy to go from one place to another.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
This place is not in Koreatown, but I like going to Griffith Park early in the morning to exercise. And also, the neighborhood in Menlo is very nice. The streets are very wide and it’s a nice area to walk around and exercise.
Are you afraid? What frightens you?
I believe in Jesus Christ, so I am not afraid.
What message do you want to say to the youth about the situation of COVID-19?
Because of Covid, I imagine that a lot of young people would have been surprised and shocked, thinking that this situation may become routine for them. I hope that they would match their lifestyle according to this situation. Some young people assume that because of their age, they won’t get the coronavirus. Some go out partying in big groups and hang out with their friends. But they still need to think about their family and their community.
Due to COVID-19, our interactions and communication in-person decrease, how do you overcome this?
Most of us probably have a phone and a computer at home. For me, I can’t go to church anymore, so I mostly use Zoom to talk to my church members. Through electronic devices, we can easily communicate and interact with our friends and family members.