I am a woman whose family has a history of migration. I was born in Aachen, I went to school here and studied here. I had a lot of good fortune and luck during my life. But your chance in life should not depend on luck and good fortune. I want our society to become more equitable.
That’s why I’ve been in politics since 2005 and why I am a member of the SPD. I have been representing the city of Aachen in the Bundestag since 2021. Here, I will tell you how I got there.
I was born in 1987 at the Luisenhospital in Aachen. I attended the daycare center Alfonsstraße, went to elementary school Luisenstraße and graduated from Viktoriaschule.
In the afternoons I went to the OT Josefshaus or played recorder and violin at the music school at Blücherplatz. I was a carol singer at St. Adalbert and was confirmed at Holy Trinity Church.
I painted at the Ludwig Forum and swam at SV Neptun. I was involved in the founding of the student café at Aachenfenster. After graduating high school, I studied Political Science and Linguistics and Communication Science at RWTH Aachen University.
I worked for two years in the “Germany and Asia” program at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Gütersloh before I started as a research assistant in Ulla Schmidt’s constituency office. In March 2015, I was offered a position at the Ministry of Science in Düsseldorf. In 2018, I went on secondment to the Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University (ITA) to get an impression of science policy on the ground. From 2020 to 2021, I worked in the field of science communication at the DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials. While I am a member of the Bundestag, I continue to be employed by the Ministry and am merely on leave.
My parents came to Germany from South Korea in 1986. They stayed in Germany because they liked life here. They like the culture, the values and the way of life. My father worked as a lecturer at RWTH Aachen University until he retired. My mother works as a nurse at Luisenhospital.
After a short stopover in a student dormitory, my parents moved into an apartment building. Our situation was fortunate because instead of rejection, there was a lot of curiosity among the neighbors.
Our immediate neighbor became our German grandma.
German grannies play a major role in the lives of many children and young people with an immigrant background. Our grandma took my mother shopping, cooked and baked with her, and watched TV with her The program included shows like Lindenstraße and the Tagesschau. This is how my mother got to know the German culture, language and cuisine, in everyday life and in interaction with other people.
A popular African proverb says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” And my experience tells me that this is true.
Looking back, my childhood could have been very lonely.
In Germany, there were only the four of us: my parents, my brother and me. But it never felt that way. On St. Martin’s Day, we made the rounds of the whole house with our lanterns and sang in front of every apartment door. For the first day of school we received a big school bag from all our neighbors. And Santa Claus was always particularly generous and the boots full every year.
We always spent Christmas Eve with the whole family at Grandma’s house. Grandma made goose and my mom brought Korean kimchi. Those were then our own traditions.
I grew up speaking two languages and living two cultures. My parents only spoke Korean to me at home. Every time I tell people this, I get incredulous looks: I speak German without any mistakes. My brother and I spoke German with our neighbors and in kindergarten. That was enough.
Overall, as a young woman with a visible migrant background, I have been very lucky in life.
I was often at the right place at the right time and got to know the right people who supported me. They allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities I had. But many people don’t even get the chance to take advantage of opportunities because too many people’s lives still depend on luck and good fortune: on their parents, their background, their gender and their money.
I started being politically involved in 2005 and my political path was not unusual:
I was deputy chairwoman of the Jusos Aachen, coordinated numerous election campaigns and was involved with the Juso university group in the student parliament and the AStA of the RWTH Aachen.
I have been a member of the SPD Aachen executive committee since 2010 and have been deputy party chairwoman since 2018.
In 2014, I was elected for the first time to the Aachen City Council for the first time, where I served until 2022. I was a member of the Committee for Labor, Economy and Regional Development and the Citizens’ Forum. As the spokesperson for mobility policy for the SPD parliamentary group, my municipal policy focus was primarily on what happens on Aachen’s streets – whether on foot, on a bicycle, on a bus or in a car. For nine years, I coordinated the mobility policy of the SPD council parliamentary group – initially in the grand coalition with the CDU, with changing majorities and most recently in a coalition with the Greens.
In 2015, I was awarded the Helene Weber Prize for outstanding women in municipal politics for my commitment to municipal politics. Since 2009, 65 female local politicians have been honored – from all over the country from all parties. I also see this award as an encouragement to continue my political commitment with just as much passion and to be a role model for other women in local politics.