Dear Chloe Kim

Thank you from a fellow Korean-American


Dear Ms. Chloe Kim,

Hey there.

I know you’re probably busy winning gold medals and stuff but just wanted to send you a quick “hello.” I don’t have many idols in my life besides maybe the approval of my parents and dark chocolate but you, young lady, have earned my worship. I was the girl who came dead last in every high school cross country meet, so you are an inspiration. And as someone who’s dreamt of dying my black hair a sultry gold since age 13, you are a true vision.

Growing up, I always loved the Olympics — the world unifying for two short weeks in the name of unearthly athleticism. Yet it was always somewhat of a Korean-American identity crisis each time I flipped on the screen. I screamed for the American Shawn Johnson bounding down the balance beam one year. Then the next, I wept over the Korean Kim Yuna and the gold medal I thought she deserved. I continually volleyed between my yellow skin and my American heart. Don’t even ask me how confusing it got when I moved to Kenya for six years. Thus, I prepared for the most wrenching existential crisis yet when I heard the 2018 Olympics were bound for South Korea.

But then you, Chloe, stepped in. When I first heard a Korean-American would be representing the United States in Pyeongchang, I choked up a little bit. How beautiful that an American-born Korean would be traveling to her distant homeland to represent her other home, America? I finally had someone I could cheer on without denying one half of myself.

Watching the Opening Ceremony from my couch at home, I remember the bittersweet realization that this was where I was from — the hanboks, or the Korean traditional dress, the tigers, the drums and fan-dances — this was me. Those indefatigable dancers shimmying in the background were my brothers and sisters. Yet at the same time, when Team USA strolled into the sweet trills of “Gangnam Style,” how could I keep from shouting my support? This was me too.

But then you, Chloe, walked in with your beautiful blonde hair and glowing smile and I knew you were with me. You sat in the midst of Team USA and watched the history of your ancestors unfold before you. I’m sure you felt the same as me — this inner turmoil of “Am I American or Korean? Who am I really representing?”

But then, you got on the snow.

The extent of my snowboarding expertise starts and ends on a Wii Fit board, but you, girl — you got it. You did the impossible. Two 1080s back-to-back plus a little more. I hardly know what that means, but my heart knew this was historic. Historic in the snowboarding world but also in the Asian-American world.

I always thought my Asian-American identity was somewhat limiting. Stereotypes told me that to be Asian-American was to go to medical or law school. Then with the loads of money earned you could pay back the sacrifice of your immigrant parents. The media told me that to be an Asian-American female was to be soft, quiet or sexually exotic.

But you, Chloe Kim, told me otherwise.

You showed the world that to be an Asian-American female doesn’t always mean being a docile doctor. You reminded the world that Asian-Americans play sports, that they can dye their hair and that they can win sports. When you stood on that medal stand, you didn’t just represent America or Korea, but you represented Asia-America. You testified that you can be entirely American yet come from a different culture. You taught that you don’t have to deny one part of yourself to be a full person. And you proved that Asia-America is filled with all kinds of people on all ends of the spectrum.

I don’t think you cried up on that stand, but in the first floor of Clem, procrastinating for my Organic Chemistry Exam, I cried for you. So from the bottom of my heart, I thank you Ms. Chloe Kim. You make me proud to be Korean-American.


Alyson Hyun-Ju Lee

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