when i first came to alaska... 

When I first arrived to Nome, I was actually shocked. I remember watching, through TV, America: New York, California. Thinking that every-- every place in the United States is utopia. You know, it’s very civilized and metropolitan? But when I arrived to Nome, I felt Nome was a little backwards. I envisioned what South Korea looked like in the 1960s: it’s small; very countryside; little outdated things. You know, how things are run here. System-wise, politics-wise, living-standard-wise, I was very disappointed. And at same time, I was going through some unhappy and depressive stage; because [of the] language barrier, I didn’t have any friends. The restaurant business [was] something brand new to me, and so I was very skeptical and didn’t have a positive attitude about what I had to do from that point on to make my family living. When I started working here [at Milano's Pizza], I was expecting the face of Caucasians [t] come in as customers. But when the, the Native Alaskan was coming in, thinking that they were Koreans because was some similar features! I didn’t expect that. ... I thought that, "Wow, this is unbelievable!" How I didn’t have any imagination how America will be this way. ... As time passed on, I developed some friendships, and regular customers would come in and out, and -- granted that I had some language barriers, you know, it’s not all about verbal communication -- [I] was able to communicate non-verbally. And develop some friendships and closeness with the community. And so I'm very happy how things have progressed. That’s one of the reasons [that] kept me to stay here. I'm very happy at this moment, this time-- what I have accomplished. And I want to continue to live here, and ... I want to do some good things for the community as well. Give back. I'm very happy at this time.

  Kyung at her restaurant, Milano's Pizza, in downtown Nome.

Kyung at her restaurant, Milano's Pizza, in downtown Nome.

an opportunity to start a restaurant

 I came to United States shortly after my husband. He came in, to Alaska, to look for opportunity for the family. To make [a] living. His older brother happens to be already in Anchorage, living with my husband at the time, so they sponsored him [my husband] to come in. There was an opportunity, by mutual friends, to start a restaurant here [in Nome]. And then so, for a few years he came in [to Nome], settled in, and then I got invited to come in and to live together and run the business together, [Milano's Pizza]. 1997 is when I arrived.

"I felt that it was definitely a connection, that Eskimo families are family-oriented. They love the family member[s] and care for each other. That was something that I felt, there was a definite connection."

Giving Back

There’s several Korean-owned business members here, so I'm in the middle-- I think I function as the organizer, you know, as the leader amongst the Korean community? Trying to advocate [for] people to get together ... and serve the elders, you know, provide some meals, and do stuff. So I'm in the midst of getting things [together], and start taking care of some elders in a way.