I Am KoreAm: AJ Riester
I am KoreAm and proud because:
It has opened myself, my wife, and children up to a beautiful and complex culture, full of history, pride, tradition, and wonderful people.
Describe your background (where did you grow up, etc.).
I was born in Seoul, and was adopted when I was 4 months old to a Caucasian family in a small town in Iowa. Another Korean boy my adoptive parents adopted and I were the only Asians in the area.
My small town didn’t afford any opportunities, so I married my wife and joined the Navy in 2008. My adoptive parents weren’t open about my background and didn’t encourage me to learn about in Korean culture. My wife on the other hand, was very enthusiastic and embraced my birth culture whole-heartedly. We have had three children together: Mischa (5), Violet (3), and Gabriel (2 months). We try our best to give our kids the cultural experience I missed growing up.
What issues going on in the world, and/or in the Korean American / Asian American community affect you the most?
The humanitarian crisis in North Korea is something I’m passionate about. I am a supporter of LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) and Seoul USA (a Christian organization that supports the underground church in North Korea). Americans are only shown news coverage of North Korea being a nuclear threat, and the press completely neglects to report on the starving people, the prison camps, and extreme persecution the church faces in North Korea. Raising awareness for this issue is important to me. For all I know, I have relatives in North Korea.
If you were given the opportunity to travel to one place in the world, where would it be and why (money is not an issue)?
I would like to go to South Korea. I haven’t been since I left when I was 4 months old, and one of my greatest desires is to find my birth parents and their families. I think if I was in-country, that I have enough information to find someone.
How would you describe your style in clothing?
Tank tops and athletic shorts.
When people look at me, they would never guess that I…
…Am named Andrew Joseph Lee Riester! I was born Lee Sung Soo. Andrew is after my adoptive father; Joseph is for St. Joseph because my adoptive family is Catholic, and they made my family name one of my middle names; and Riester is German.
What makes your family unique from others?
My wife is white, and she is even more into Korean stuff than I am!
Name one of your favorite things about someone in your family.
My wife’s complete support of my naval career. She is a wonderful Navy wife.
Are you the type of person with lots of friends or just a few close ones?
I’m friendly with everyone, but my absolute best friend is my wife.
What words do you live by?
Romans 8:31: What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
I am NOT an adventurous eater, but I tried snails when my family and I visited Paris, and I was pleasantly surprised.
If you had to describe yourself using three words, they would be…
Outgoing, funny, hard-working.
What are your pet peeves or interesting thing about you that you dislike?
As I mentioned, I am not an adventurous eater. I have a problem with texture that drives my wife crazy. She’s a great cook and has had to tone it down to casseroles and crockpot meals to suit my picky palate. It makes me nervous to visit South Korea, because I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy.