For our traveling exhibit, Heart and Seoul: Growing Up in Korea, we’ve been very fortunate to work with Seoul-native Cathy Palisoc as a consultant to help establish relationships in the Korean community and dive more into the Korean culture. She sat down to talk with us about what it was like to grow up in Korea and the influence it has on her life today.
What was the biggest transition from living in Seoul to living in America?
I moved to Chicago in 1991. The biggest transition was the people and the fact that my loved ones were in Korea except my husband. I missed my family & friends, but I started making new friends. Now, I have many friends in Chicago, Chattanooga, and Seoul. Other than the fact that I missed my loved ones in Korea, I loved living in Chicago for 15 years and truly enjoying the life in Chattanooga.
What is the biggest influence that growing up in Seoul has had on your life?
Perseverance: Growing up in Korea meant that I was supposed to study hard and make it to the top college in a very competitive environment. There are pros & cons to the competitive education-focused society, but one of the things that I’ve learned from it was to persevere to achieve my goals. Also, respect: Respecting the parents & elders was a very important virtue in Korea.
If someone was taking a trip to Seoul for the first time, what would be the top three places you recommend to see?
There are so many cool places to visit in Korea. Jeju Island, which is south end of Korea, is my favorite place besides Seoul. Jeju is like a little Hawaii but has unique natural beauty with wonderful beaches, waterfalls & caves.
In Seoul, I’d like to recommend Gyeongbokgung which is a historic palace museum, Myeong-dong which is similar to little Manhattan with so many shops, fashion stores, and food. I would also recommend Namsan Tower, which is located in the middle of Seoul, so you can see the city of Seoul well. Walking up the Namsan (meaning South Mountain) road is a very famous romantic location for couples.
What’s your fondest memory of growing up in Seoul as a child?
My family used to go to my parent’s hometown located near the beach. My parents put four kids in the back of the small car & drove several hours to get to their hometown. Once we arrived, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins & neighbors used to greet us. We used to enjoy great meals at several relatives houses, fish & swim in the ocean. I still remember to this day how deep & blue the East sea (between Korean & Japan) was while I was looking down while swimming.
What games did you like to play growing up?
I played with dolls, jump ropes, and spent a lot of time reading many books while my three brothers played a lot of soccer and different games with marbles. We played card games too.