A person’s first name ought to belong to that person; this naming culture is internationally accepted all over the world by most communities. However, my first name did not belong to me but my younger brother. The naming culture in the Korean community is different from the general norm that a person’s first name should belong to the individual. My name “g” has shaped me to become the person who I currently am. The Korean culture believes that the name of a person has significant impacts on the personal life of the individual and that of his or her family. The amount of importance that has been placed on the names of children has led to many Korean parents seeking the services of Naming Centers. These organizations charge people so that they can sell to them names with “good” meanings with positive reflections of their futures. My grandparents bought my name from a naming center in the country. They had this strong belief that a name should have a special meaning in the life and future of the baby and the community at large. I was named “I” by my grandparents because it is traditionally believed to bring a son to a family. Therefore, since my parents had not yet bore a son, they appreciated my name with hopes that a son will soon come their way. Although I do not believe that my name had a superstitious power, my little brother was born three years after me being named “I”.
Growing up in Korea and living with my grandparents until I was fourteen years old frequently reminded me of the son-preference culture that is deeply rooted in the Korean ethnicity. My parents were busy working, and this meant that the only people around me were my grandparents. When I first learned about the meaning of my name at the age of 10, I was disappointed. The displeasure that I had in the name was because it did not belong to me but my brother. Unfortunately, I was so used to the Korean culture that I did not think of officially changing my name on government records (documents). At that time, I did not think that naming a girl a boy’s name merely to have a son in a family is unfair. I had conformed to the son-preference culture that I did not have any problems with my name until I went to UC Berkeley.
Studying and being exposed to diverse ethnic communities in the United States of America made me learn that the scope of equality stretches across all genders. It came to my attention that impartiality amongst all races and between both genders in America has long been the subject of controversy by prominent people in the country. Particularly, UC Berkeley and its diverse students showed me why and how “equality” should be pursued. At Berkeley, student political movements were active, and student protests were held almost every day. Many students stood up to fight for more “equal” rights of genders and ethnicities. They did not tolerate any instances or actions that neglected their identities and just rights. The students refused to conform to how the society identifies them. I was motivated by their courage and commitment, and I gradually began to question what my name meant for me and how it had shaped my identity. My conscious was not satisfied with what the society perceived about me, and I started to seek my identity.
Interning at a law firm in Korea after my graduation redefined my desire to not only serve people who stand for the rights to protect their identities but also those who have been compelled to conform to a biased culture without their choice. Korea has gradually developed within a short period, and as a result, the role of women in the society has grown to be on the same level to that of men. The fact that Korea today has a female president demonstrates that the traditional bias against women has reduced. Nevertheless, I witnessed during the internship that there were still many instances when people would be treated unfairly at work because of their diverse identities of being female, married, or members of certain races. Moreover, as a public policy major, I studied that this bias is still pervaded in many other countries such as India. Many Indian parents fly to Thailand to have gender selection in the womb, where such practice is not illegal.
The law is a powerful tool that can make the lives of people better by granting them their just rights while at the same time limiting their extent. I believe that I can use this platform to accomplish my passion of serving the disadvantaged people by helping their voices to be heard. Serving the community as a lawyer will provide me with immediate opportunities to contribute to the societal development. I look forward to a society where individual’s identity is respected, and the resulting diversity is highly valued regardless of the cultural definition of who they are. Today, I am proud of my name, and it does not bother me that my grandparents perceive it to mean something different from the personal identity that I have established for myself. The courage and commitment that I have will go a long way to help people who have had discrimination based on their gender, color, age or religion.