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HANDS OFF MY POT - the mean, lean Ajumma Lina

AJUMMA EXP Is proud to spotlight Lina Park, an aspiring marathoner and triathlete, wife, and mother of 3 in the Bay Area. Among the many things on her bucket list - mastering the yogi handstand. She has one of the best jobs in the world - doling out cash to needy Korean American orgs.



Tell us about yourself.


I came to the U.S. when I was four from South Korea and have lived in eight different states - New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Texas, and California. As a child of immigrant parents, I remember navigating between two worlds as a Korean and an American. For my first Halloween, I wanted to be the iconic American Yogi Bear and my mom wanted me to be a Korean princess (wearing a traditional Korean dress or hanbok). We compromised - I went trick-or-treating as a Korean Yogi Bear Princess.


Growing up, I didn't fit the typical Korean stereotype. I was one of three Asians in my high school in Ohio, and I didn't care much for math and science. Yet, I didn't know any other path than the doctor/lawyer/engineer route. So I began college as a science major but later discovered I wanted to pave my own path in life. I became an English major, turned high-tech public relations guru, turned stay-at-home mom, turned nonprofit executive.


Today, I'm the Executive Director of Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco, a foundation that gives grants to nonprofit organizations addressing the needs of the most vulnerable Korean American communities in the Bay Area. Through these grants, we are hoping to work towards addressing very important, yet least discussed, issues in our community, including domestic violence and mental health.


I'm also a wife to the most patient man in the universe, and a mom to three active teenagers!


What does being an Ajumma mean to you?


Being an Ajumma means having an inner-strength of a thousand people. With all that life throws at us, we've had to reach deep inside and bring out that strength whenever we've needed it! Ajummas are also filled with some pretty wicked sense of style and humor. We laugh out loud, tell you what we really think, and don't hold back the love. You know you've reached the highest level of Ajumma-hood when you can talk about absolutely anything with each other!


Ajummas are known to have super-human strength and abilities. What is your secret Ajumma power?


My secret Ajumma power is the ability to be in several different places at one time - how else do we Ajummas get so much done in a day?? My other secret Ajumma power is optimism. I think it's this optimism that has given me the courage to try new things and face challenges and opportunities head on. As a young mom, this optimism gave me the strength to travel coast-to-coast on a plane with a preschooler, toddler, and an infant - more than once! It also gave me the courage to go back to school to obtain my master's degree while the kids were in elementary and middle school. This optimism has also made me have many "what was I thinking!' moments as well!


What is one of the biggest challenges you've overcome?


One of the most life-changing challenges I've overcome is postpartum depression. Before this experience, I didn't understand depression and thought life's struggles could all be easily resolved. Even though going through postpartum depression was one of the toughest moments of my life, I am grateful for it because I learned so much. For the first time, I understood what it meant to have friends and a community who cared deeply and unconditionally. I learned that your truest friends will love and care for you during your weakest moments. I also learned that postpartum depression is more common than people think and something no ajumma-in-training should go through alone!


Sage Ajumma advice? (words you live by?)


Live life with gratitude. I know this is easier said than done, but this perspective has changed so much of my perspective in life and has made even the toughest times bearable.


Finally, what is your guilty pleasure?




Dark chocolate and Doritos - not necessarily together. I can't remember a day I haven't eaten chocolate, and if you put a Costco-size bag of Doritos in front of me, it will be gone in a day or two.


If you’d like to connect with Lina Park, you can reach her at: lpark@kacfsf.org


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