“Life Through Another Lens” features stories of NYJL members, in their own words, to shed light on how we experience the world and the NYJL through different lenses informed by our individual identities. In this edition, NYJL member Jung Hi Han shares her story as a Korean American woman living in New York, as well as her broader experiences as a member of the League. 

What initially drew you to the New York Junior League?

I was looking for a way to volunteer, but feel like I found so much more. I majored in Visual Arts in college and felt right at home at my first placement – Artistic Journeys. I was on AJ for five years, co-chairing for three. It’s a weekly committee, which is time intensive, but it’s so rewarding to see the kids every week. There was a set of twins that joined us my second year and one was assigned as my mentee. To see them grow from small, super shy six year olds into 11 year olds with big personalities was really special.

I currently serve as an Associate for Children Education, Culture & the Arts and as a Provisional Leader. I made some great friendships through my provisional class and hope to make my provisionals into friends as well. In fact, I am attending my provisional friend’s wedding in Ireland this spring! 

Beyond your identity as a Korean American, how else do you identify? 

I like to think I’m a good friend and a decent sailor. I am also an avid cyclist – I’m currently training for a 500-mile bike ride from New York City to Niagara Falls to raise money for cancer research. 

Can you share more about your identity as a Korean American woman as it pertains to the passing of Michelle Go?

As a child I was physically assaulted on the street by a stranger who wanted to kill me because I was Korean, so a certain fear has been with me in some way throughout my life and the murder of Michelle Go really heightened that fear and made a certain reality seem more possible or even likely. A month after Michelle’s passing, a Korean American woman from my alma mater who was one grade ahead of me was followed home and murdered in the Lower East Side. There’s that superstition that bad things happen in threes, and I wondered for a while if I would be the third as both women were close to my age and had similar affiliations. 

How has being in the New York Junior League affected your life? 

Last volunteer year was pretty tough since I was afraid for my own personal safety, it just felt easier to hide in my apartment. Being on the Nominating Committee was helpful during that time since it’s a weekly commitment and there were a lot of socials – it forced me out of my apartment. Also because everyone is voted in, you get a group of really strong women – which was nice to be part of, and the sustainers on that committee are really something to aspire to – one in particular became a bit of a mentor figure to me.

What has being a member of the New York Junior League meant to you? 

Growing up, my town was 97% white and no one looked like me. On top of that, I didn’t grow up with a religious affiliation. As an adult I realize that I missed a sense of community as a kid. I feel like I found that in the League and hope to make others feel like they belong. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

My desire to share my story with Life Through Another Lens was spurred by a yoga retreat in the Berkshires, and it helped me realize the power of story. By telling stories, you give other people the space to share their own stories even if it’s with a smaller group or a close friend. I hope by sharing my story, it sparks some sort of conversation or awareness that would not have otherwise existed.