Episode 56: Recognizing Our Diverse Cultural Heritages during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Portrait of Jane KoIn celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, we are recognizing our professionals' diverse cultural heritages and traditions. Jane Ko, CPC, a Senior Recruiting Manager on our DHG Search team, discusses her Korean heritage and why it's important to celebrate and applaud inclusion and diversity at DHG.

Episode 56 Transcript:

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG Podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us; flexibility, careers and people. We’re currently celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

The month of May was selected for this celebration to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the US on May 71843, and more, the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which occurred on May 10, 1969. I did have to look this up. I did not know that off the top of my head. But the majority of the workers who laid the tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad were Chinese immigrants. I thought that was really fascinating. I never would have imagined that Chinese immigrants were so instrumental in our rail system.

Joining me today is my colleague and my officemate, Jane Ko. She works for DHG’s Search Advisors and she’s actually my officemate next door. So I see her – I mean, pretty much every day. Jane and her husband were both born in Korea, but they spent the majority of their lives here in the US, and I’m excited to learn more about how they celebrate their heritage. Welcome, Jane.

JK: Thank you.

AGH: What’s so funny is we had an offline conversation before this, but as I was trying to think through who I could ask to join me, I don’t know anybody who’s Asian. I know we have Asian people, I just don’t know who they are, and then I was like, “Oh! Jane, who I see every day.”

JK: We see each other almost every day.

AGH: Almost every day. You moved here as a child and you were just beginning grade school. What did your parents do to help ensure that the Portrait of Jane Ko's childKorean culture remains an active part of your life?

JK: They worked really hard at doing just that. I, of course, started kindergarten just probably the day after we had moved from South Korea to Michigan, but at home they spoke to us in Korean as much as possible. I mean, it helped that they really were not native English speakers. And they put me in weekend Korean school. So I do remember attending Saturday school – I don’t know, for at least a couple of years during those younger years. Oddly enough, I still, I think, remember things from that. So it’s just the speaking Korean to us, certainly the food, pretty much eating Korean food. That was our diet.

AGH: Still is.

JK: Yes. Sure. As kids, we wanted to be acclimated more and more or fully, I guess, into the American culture. So we wanted steak and McDonald's and things like that. But yeah, the food was a big deal. Then we would certainly try to keep up with relatives and family members that lived in the states. There are a lot of unspoken Korean “traditions and mores”, I guess, that you would follow that my parents followed. I mean, I could list a bunch of them, but there weren’t like major holiday traditions and things like that. Yes, we celebrated probably the Chinese New Year and the Korean Independence Day.

AGH: That’s cool. So you have two beautiful girls. We were just discussing them. One is in college and one is about to go to college. What have you and Bruce done to weave the Korean culture into your family?

Jane Ko's familyJK: That is a little more difficult to answer because certainly we haven’t done nearly as much, I think, as we could have or should have, but in reference to what we have done, again, it would be trying to speak to them in Korean, but language is one of those things, as you know, if you don’t use it all the time, you really do lose it.

So my Korean, I’m sure, has gotten more rusty, certainly, so has my husband’s, but we did try to talk to them in Korean whenever we could. But as they got older – they’re very close in age, and as they got older, it just got harder and harder to do, but certainly Korean food.

AGH: Jane always has rice going in her rice cooker.

JK: Always, yes. But I make Korean food at home, not great and not really fancy, difficult Korean foods, but we do do that. Then certainly we do some traditions that are fun and easy to keep, like – New Year’s, New Year’s Day. Everybody, every culture has a particular meal that you share, and on Korean New Year’s Day, you always make Tteokguk, it’s called, and it’s a soup and it’s a rice cake kind of dumpling soup and it’s really, really good. So we always do that.

Then later of course, we have our regular “southern New Year’s meal”, pork and –

AGH: Black-eyed peas.

JK: Yeah, black-eyed peas and collards and all of that, but that kind of thing. So little things that we can do to kind of cultivate and keep the Korean culture.

AGH: Yeah. I think it’s so fascinating. So here at DHG we do celebrate inclusion and diversity every day, but we do like to recognize some of these months where we have focused across our country, focus celebrations. Why do you think that it’s really important for us to recognize and celebrate diverse backgrounds in terms of work environment?

JK: I think, obviously, there are a lot of different reasons, but I love that we do that here, and by here, I mean, in the south.  If you talk with various Jane Ko wearing DHG Life Beyond Numbers hatother people within the states even in different regions, some people still have a certain kind of idea about the south that we might be backwards, but I certainly don’t think that to be true. But some people still do and might make mention of it. The fact that we do intentionally recognize and celebrate and applaud inclusion and diversity I think is really great, because people need to know that companies and employers in the south - What’s the word? Not cosmopolitan, but very open and not close-minded, kind of real backwards, kind of what some might say the south is full of -  do you see what I’m saying?

AGH: Let me just add this in. I think it’s interesting that that’s your angle, because you, every day, are recruiting and talking with people from all over the country. So it’s probably something that you’re oversensitive to.

JK: I am because, first of all, I live in a community –

AGH: Greenville. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina.

JK: Right, in Greenville, South Carolina, that I have loved living here for the last 20 some odd years. But, yes, do I look different than, say, most people when I walk into a restaurant or just somewhere? Yeah, I do. But that’s something that I just gotten very used to and I don’t really –

AGH: You don’t think about it anymore, right?

JK: I don’t think about it. However, I do know that that is a factor for somebody, perhaps, that’s not used to that and have moved here. So it might not be the huge, obviously, Asian melting pot that it is in Los Angeles. But that is an angle, perhaps you have to appreciate if you aren’t in my shoes. But I think, to me, that’s one of the great reasons I think that it’s great that we do this, because it allows people to realize, “Oh! It’s very open.” We’re forward thinking, progressive, those kinds of things.

AGH: That’s super.

JK: You know what? One other thing, I think this sounds cliché, but it’s just the truth. There are so many differences in all of us no matter what group or ethnicity group you identify with - we’re all so different, but we’re all the same. So that’s my perspective on that.

AGH: That’s super. That’s awesome, Jane. Thank you for joining us and sharing some perspective for this month.

JK: Sure, my pleasure. I think it’s great that we do this.

AGH: Awesome. Thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our life beyond numbers.

Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.

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