Thursday, March 4, 2021

Then Became the Magnolia

Then Became the Magnolia

by Kathleen Kelly Halverson, 3/31/2020

                           Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I walked by it,

inhaling its evolution,

for over a week,

day after day -- and each time,

it changed and called to me.

Impossible to ignore, it was.

And so

I slowed my pace and began to pay

attention, to watch the evolving birth of 

this incredible being.

I watched as it began--

first with buds that were barely an appendage,

clinging to sweetest stem,

breathing and dripping with opposing

forces of hope, promise, innocence,

boldness, and intention. Forces that

merged and married in a way that almost

didn't make sense. It was intoxicating to


It's a being that starts small, with seed

and sapling. A newly planted spirit

whose nimble limbs move WITH the 

wind, refusing to fight and showing the

world not a lick of fear or uncertainty but

rather intentionality and every bit of

beauty--limbs that bend without fear of

breaking and whose strength lies quietly

unnoticed but ever present, in rich soil

and deeply and lovingly planted roots

and whose form, soon enough, morphs

into something magnificent.

I continued my walks.

First, it boasted buds that were tightly

bound to stem, akin to a womb-enshrined infant

still soundly sleeping, firmly attached to a mother--a being with

humblest beginnings but one that would

soon have sweeping and strong life

stories in full technicolor, 

and bold and beautiful endings.

As the days passed, the buds folded ever-so-slowly open,

more and more with each passing day--

giving the world a hint of the wonder that was to come 

from this being.

And then.

Today, it happened.

The babies yawned and stretched

and opened and smiled at spring

and decided, "It's time."

And after that delicious sleep and after

saving their strength for this day of great reveal,

they finally unfolded completely.

Flaunted their fuschia hues

and not-so-why peeks of purple and white.

Unrolled and shook out all of their soft,

folded-over edges, translucent petals

showing their innocent faces

to the world for the very first time.

Yawning their now full-on blossoms up

to the sky, they were velvet-lined vessels

inviting the world to drink of their display,

to inhale their scent,

to bear witness to their beauty,

to watch their grand entrance.

And their proud mother? 

What did SHE do?


She threw back her head with absolute

abandon, stretched, and smiled at the sky.

Opened her arms and welcomed spring.

And so, after a long week of making me wait . . . 

Then became the magnolia.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

"In My Little Town" (cue up Paul Simon)

Dear readers:

As I reflect on what life was like in 2020 (as if any of us REALLY want to remember that year), I know that a story about a peaceful protest in a small town and a crowd of hundreds and hundreds of people is probably not what you’d think of when you think of a pandemic, and quarantine, and social distancing, and masks. But this is a moment that my 11-year-old son and I shared in June 2020, and it’s a pandemic story because it happened in 2020, and it happened not just DURING a pandemic—but DESPITE a pandemic.

I hope that you’ll read this story. I submitted parts of it to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History for their Coronavirus 2020 stories from people who lived through the pandemic, for purposes of social history that our future generations can read, reflect upon, and imagine what it must have been like to be us at this pivotal point in American history.

I live in a very conservative town in upper Montgomery County, MD (halfway between DC and Baltimore). But it's getting more balanced out as younger, more liberal families move here: Including us. (We ain't young, but liberal we are!) 

It was early in the summer of 2020. The pandemic had stretched on and on since March, a time that had a concrete, distinct starting point but that now had a gaping yawning no-end-in-sight.

But what’s important to remember about the pandemic is that, even though social distancing was happening, and masks were being worn, Black and brown people were STILL being murdered due to systemic racism in this country.

Case in point: Memorial Day weekend of 2020. Yes, at the end of May 2020, a raging pandemic was happening, but guess what else happened?

George Floyd was murdered. Please don’t forget about Mr. Floyd, future generations.

And more information came out about the senseless murder of Breonna Taylor well before Mr. Floyd died. My Black and brown friends reached a new low in their collective consciousness, mourning not just for Mr. Floyd and Ms. Taylor but for 400+ years of slavery, injustice, systemic racism, white privilege, microaggressions, and senseless murders and arrests of Black and brown human beings (mostly male).

Dear future generations: Please don’t forget about Breonna Taylor, either.

Remember, the pandemic has caused those of us (yes, myself included) with depression and anxiety to experience perhaps the most intense depression and anxiety and downward-spiraling we’ve ever experienced. All seems hopeless. We can’t leave our homes except to take socially distanced walks in our neighborhood with family members. Some of us have lost loved ones to COVID-19 or to other diseases/conditions—and most of the time, we weren’t able to be with them physically as they took their last breath on this earth. Others have lost jobs, income, with no help in sight. Still others can’t feed their families adequately enough—they relied on the free and reduced lunch/meal programs that Montgomery County Public Schools offered (the school district still offers this, but, it’s of course different from the way it looked when school was happening in person). There is a RAGING (and I mean RAGING) debate between parents on one side of the issue (“send our kids back to in-person school”) and the other side of the issue (“keep our teachers and students safe—keep school virtual”). I am in the latter of those two camps.

These are real, Maslow’s hierarchy-type problems—and even with THESE problems ever-growing during the early days of the pandemic, Black and brown people were, still are, being murdered in their homes and on the street next to their cars. They are still being pulled over because they “fit a description” even if they can prove they were nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time that it happened.

In June 2020, I joined a Zoom call with my friend Clayton, an attorney and politician in Chicago, and about 80 others of varying races, and together we talked, vented, and wept for the unfairness and inequities continually doled out to Black and brown people in this country. He cried as he told me how he will never feel safe enough to take his small boys camping. He bemoaned their lack of getting to know our country’s glorious national parks.

A few weeks (days?) later, the small but powerful liberal core of the town I live in shocked me with pleasure by announcing that there would be a protest and a march to honor and remember the lives of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Now, I have been marching and protesting since post-election 2016. I attended the women's march along with tens of thousands of others in January 2017, wearing my pink hat and marching with my Liberal Ladies of Olney in downtown DC. I attended the students' march after the Parkland murders, and was once again immersed in a sea of people demanding justice and the closing of dangerous loophole laws that allow guns into the hands of dangerous people. Fast-forward a few years: George Floyd was murdered, as was Breonna Taylor. And lo and behold, after having lived for the past 15 years in a town that I don't even consider a suburb--it's an EXURB, we are so far north of DC and so far upcounty (country roads border us on basically all sides)--I was so proud to know that my little town was organizing a protest and a march and that we'd call for action, PEACEFULLY. The march was 100% student organized. I'm talking, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. With megaphones, showing leadership and peaceful demonstration the likes of which I have never seen. Yes, it was the middle of a pandemic. Yes, it was a calculated risk, going. But I couldn't NOT go. I felt it was important to go, do my best to keep a safe distance from people, and wear our masks. I took my son, who was 11 at the time.

We started at the corner of Olney Mill and Rt. 108, one of the "main intersections" of our town (there aren't that many). We began walking, not chanting just walking. My son and I had made signs, and we waved to neighbors and friends who had also come out to show their support. At that point, as I said, we weren't chanting much, and no one seemed to be in charge. We were starting to block the intersection and block traffic. Someone yelled, "Who's in charge here?" We all looked at each other and shrugged. Most of us were adults who had brought

our kids of all ages with us: elementary school, preschool, middle school, high school. Some dogs. Some bikes. Some scooters (including my kid). I'd say at that point there were about 100 of us. A "small" group.

No one else stepped up: And so I did. Now, I have a very loud voice and can really belt it out thanks to my extra large lung capacity that God granted me when I came into the world in 1968 (appropriate year, huh?). So I screamed at the top of my LUNGS, with as much confidence as I could muster: "PEOPLE, PEOPLE! LISTEN UP! Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna cross THAT INTERSECTION (pointing to the crosswalk at Olney Mill and 108). We're gonna go LEFT (pointing toward Good Shepherd Lutheran Church). We're going to KEEP WALKING until we meet up with some others and we'll march to the corner of 97 and 108. GOT IT?" And everyone looked stunned, nodded, and the crowd, en masse, began lining up at the crosswalk.

We walked toward the center of town. Cars passing us beeped, mostly in support (we got a few middle fingers but much fewer than I suspected we would). I worried about police presence. I worried about violence. And pepper spray. Would my son get injured? Would I get injured? But, still, it was in my little town, and I felt pretty "in control." At any point, I could zip him down a side street and we could just walk home if anything scary happened. I really wanted him to experience a PEACEFUL protest.

As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

We walked for a few blocks, holding up our signs and waving to beeping cars. But we were relatively unorganized even still. And then we approached the corner where the Jewish synagogue, B'nai Shalom, stood. And out from that small side street came a massive crowd the likes of which I had never seen. I was awestruck. I was SO PROUD of my town. And leading this (much more organized than us) group was none other than . . . local high school students. With megaphones. Fists in the air, masks securely on. SCREAMING their demands for justice for Breonna and George. "Say her name: BREONNA TAYLOR!" "Say his name: GEORGE FLOYD!" Over and over again. "No justice, no peace. No racist police!" Kids of every color, every culture.

As a grown adult, I felt humbled and proud to be witnessing such greatness, such leadership, such peaceful protest, led by organizers so young and at just the beginning of their paths—human beings with so much promise. I felt, “Our country’s going to be OK with them in charge.” I remember smiling to myself, thinking that.

And the police? Once they got word that the protest was happening (several protests ended up happening simultaneously, actually), they stepped up and slowed the flow of traffic, kept us safe, and wished us well as they crossed us safely from one corner to another, block by block. They yelled things like, "Stay safe out there, folks." “Be sure to drink lots of water; it’s hot out there.”

The local African American church near the library set up a bunch of tables and passed out waters to us. (It was a stiflingly hot day.)

When we reached the post office, the students in charge started wildly waving their hands and then making the hand gestures that indicate to everyone "please stop talking; we have something to say." The walkers stopped walking, the scooters stopped scootering, the dog owners told their dogs, "Sit. Stay." All megaphones dropped but one. We were on a sidewalk but our presence had spilled over onto the road, and the police had stopped traffic in both directions. The boy with the megaphone said something like "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to lie down just like George Floyd had to, and we're going to observe 8 minutes and 46 seconds of complete silence.” This was the exact amount of time in which the officer had his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck, the time it had taken for George Floyd to go from begging for breath to having no breath at all left in his body.

A deafening silence descended upon the crowd of (now) hundreds and hundreds of people, who just moments before had been chanting in unison, saying their names (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor), and demanding justice and equity.

And then, I heard a shifting sort of sound all around me. Bike helmets were removed and tossed to the ground. Dogs laid down and began licking their paws and settling in. And all around me, I watched as this giant wave of people lowered themselves -- almost collectively -- to the ground, face down. Some placed their hands behind their backs in symbolic gesture of George Floyd's positioning on the day he was arrested and murdered while in police custody.

My son looked at me and whispered, "What do we do now, Mommy?"

"We lie down," I said to him. "Baby, we lie down on the ground, on our bellies. And we remember these people who were murdered."

He gently placed his scooter on its side. He waited for me to lie down first. I moved us over to the grass and lowered myself. I turned my head to the side, gazing at my son as he lay next to me. The grass and the dirt were cool against my cheek. He handed me his glasses. I set them down in the soft grass.

And we all stayed that way for exactly 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

You could have heard a pin drop. No cars beeped. I turned my head, looked to the right, where the grassy field extended for miles, situated between the post office on the left and a popular walking trail on the right. The people in the cars just sat there and waited and watched us. There was no beeping. Just deferential silence.

I did take a moment to lift up my phone and get a few photos of the crowds of people, just lying there, in quiet solidarity, honoring the fallen lives of two Black human beings who didn't deserve to die, two people who had become symbols of ALL the Black and brown lives taken over the years--murdered in unfair, inequitable, unconscionable ways.

As I lay there in my little town on the grassy field just off the sidewalk, watching others lying in similar stance on the macadam of the actual road, on the yellow double lines, on the grassy median in between the two lanes of traffic, on the sidewalk, under trees, and in this same field as I, my silent tears merged with the tips of the blades of grass that brushed my face and cheeks, and I sobbed silently to myself. I had never before felt so connected to my community as I did that day. My son, on his stomach next to me, held my hand and snuggled up closer to me. He knew the story of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd well, and he knew why I was crying. He got it. More than I ever expected him to at age 11.

On that day, we marched, we yelled in peaceful unison, and we laid quietly in submission and silence, and our quiet but collective community tears fell, and we were one. It was a landmark moment in my little town of Olney, MD (which up to that time had not been all that "known" for peaceful protests or social justice marches but was beginning to BECOME known for them). I was proud of the people in my little town.

It was my son's first peaceful protest and march. And I'm pretty sure it won't be his last. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

This Blog Has Gotten Bigger: Are You With Me?

Well, it's June 2020. A lot has happened since the last time I posted, which was in January 2018. 

Matthew is 11 now, and growing like a weed. He starts 6th grade (which in MD, is middle school!) this fall. He is such a wonderful kid, and it feels like forever ago (and almost like yesterday) that he joined our family after a trip from Seoul to San Francisco to Dulles Airport in Virginia, where we met him for the first time. But this blog isn't only about him, or about our family, anymore. It's gotten bigger.

There is so much to say. I think I'm going to start blogging again, about not just my life as a parent but also about . . . this world of ours. 

This crazy, crazy world.

Coronavirus. Quarantine. Pandemic. Words we never thought we'd live through in our lives. And here we are, still working from home, still schooling our kids from home, wearing masks, no pools no restaurants no haircuts no group gatherings no concerts no sports, for going on 6 months now.

And, in addition to that, people are dying at an alarming rate as a result of poor and loopholed gun laws. And Black people, especially Black men, are disproportionately affected and 10 times more likely than white people to be murdered by someone with a gun (and often, someone who should never have had that gun in the first place; thanks, loopholes; but we in Moms Demand Action are workin' on that).

And, in addition to that, racism is alive and well in our great country. 

I encourage you to follow me in these posts. 

Read them. Open your mind. The content on my blog posts is never light; if you want light, I respectfully say, "Look somewhere else 'cuz you're not gettin' it here." I have "gone deep" ever since I started journaling and writing at the tender age of 10. I used to allow people to shame me for this. Boyfriends broke up with me because I was "too deep." Family friends have repeatedly told me that my poems as a teenager were depressing, sad. Friends have told me that I need to lighten up. 

Well, I'm 51 y'all, and I ain't lightening up. In fact, I am just getting started. 

My posts, and my personality in general, are usually deep and thought-provoking and yes, "heavy" (others' words) and "serious" (not my words but OK). I guess maybe that's one reason why I have been feeling so terribly alone lately, especially in the past few years. But it's not the worst thing. To me, the worst thing is ignoring the change that I can be in the world, conveniently turning my head away and remaining in my perfectly round, perfectly white little bubble. I refuse to do that.

The past several years (ever since the Parkland massacre, really) have taken me on an even more profound journey. A journey in which I have been outspoken and active in the fight for gun violence prevention and the safety of our children. A journey in which I have begun embracing and leaning in to the movement against racial injustice and white privilege in this country. Admitting my own white privilege, educating myself so I can do better, and then taking some concrete actions. A journey in which, I have to admit, I have been feeling extremely alone. That's OK. Even for an extrovert, I feel OK about that (sad but OK). Because the work is THAT important. If I lose friends over this, or if my friends think I'm batshit-crazy and talk about me behind my back, that is absolutely no skin off my back. If I invite 15 of my closest friends to some real, authentic dialogue with others (many of them, Black people) about racism and anti-racism work, and only 3 show up or even acknowledge my invitation, will that bother me? Hell yes. Will that stop me from doing the hard work of anti-racism, of gun violence prevention? Hell no. 

My anti-racism work has absolutely nothing to do with me and my white fragility. I am not looking for praise or adulation that the whitest of white ladies to perhaps ever walk this earth is now doing the hard work of anti-racism. It has everything to do with Black people and the injustices and racism that they have been subjected to for 400+ years in this country. 

I have soooo much to learn about my white privilege, about white fragility, about systemic and institutionalized racism, about the school-to-prison pipeline, about the prison industrial complex, and about why Black Lives Matter. 

So, I think I'm gonna start bloggin' again. 

This is my attempt to encourage people to open their hearts and open their minds to learning about all the ways in which this country, and our world, is still so unjust and unfair, especially to Black people. And also to brown people, to people of color, to BIPOC, and to other non-white races. (I hesitate to use "people of color" and "BIPOC" here but I do, because I have gotten very mixed messages from my Black friends about the appropriateness of these terms; I am still open to learning and making sure I use the most accepted terminology, so please reach out to me and correct me if I have used these terms incorrectly or ill-advisedly.)

In some of my blog posts, I hope to share stories of what I have learned from my Black friends--actual stories of racism that they encountered (with their blessing to share the story, of course), what they have articulated to me that they want and need from white people, what their fears are (fears that are very different from the ones that I have as a white privileged person), and the lessons I have learned in this journey along the way.

My blog posts will also be my attempt to vent my feelings and how strongly I feel that real change needs to happen, and it starts with us. It starts with white people--and I know a lot of white people. My circle is predominantly white, followed by some Asian (mostly Korean), and a very few friends who are Black and who are other races (from India, the Philippines, Mexico). We need to use our white privilege (which we ALL have, like it or not) as the power tool that it is in order to make our voices heard and to elevate the Black people in our country who have been discriminated against, profiled, been made to feel "less than" and invisible, for more than 400 years.

A few months ago, my own son and his Chinese-American friend were the victims of racist remarks. And it wasn't the first time for our family, either. The white kids told my son and his friend to "go back to China; we don't want your coronavirus." I'll tell you that story in a separate blog post; that story deserves its own dedicated space.

I'll talk more about all of this soon. But I do encourage you to pay attention to what I'm saying, to read my blog, to stay woke, and to take concrete action to create a culture and a world that is truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive. This won't happen today or tomorrow. It's a marathon, not a sprint. But in order to finish a marathon, ya gotta take small steps first, start slow, pace yourself, pick up speed, and then FINISH. So, I am in this for the long haul.

And don't worry: If you don't know remotely where to start, that's another reason why I have decided to start blogging again. I'll be providing resources (books, movies, documentaries, articles, blog posts, social media profiles, etc.) to read, watch, and follow. And I will provide these resources only if I myself have read/watched/followed them first. So this won't be like my Facebook feed, where I am sharing a million things even if I haven't yet read them. I'll share only resources that I have completed in their entirety, and my perspective/opinion on what I thought of them. Maybe pull out a few quotes, or a few scenes from said movie or documentary, that kind of thing. I hope you find it helpful.

Stay tuned. I know the title of this blog is a little misleading, and I ask you to be understanding of that--because it contains legacy content about Jeff and my journey to parenthood that goes back to 2008ish, I do not want to change the title. It's part of our family story. But suffice it to say, this blog is about way more than adoption and parenthood now. It's about righting wrongs. It's about "leaning in" to discomfort and unfamiliar dialogue, and being OK with that--because that's where the learning, the growing, and the changing happen--in those uncomfortable spaces that we, as white people, absolutely MUST start occupying with greater force and frequency than ever before.

Please join me.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's January 2018--and it's going to be a magical year. I know it because I'm already telling my stories and sharing my writing in ways that I've wanted to for a long, long time. I'm keeping this post short. There's lots to do to prepare for the Year That Shall Be My Year, but, suffice to say that I'm excited.

And now, the announcement: After writing as a storyteller (among hundreds of others) for, for just a few months, I was told that they liked my writing so much that, this quarter, I was selected to be added as a Staff Storyteller (a higher honor than "just" the storyteller designation). Writing for this site offers tons of intrinsic rewards and motivation for me; gratitude is joyfully present. I have written several stories for so far. Here's one:

I will link to others as I find them being published.

I plan to write more, both creatively and consistently. Not just about adoption. Especially in the form of poetry. And journaling. And, I plan to get moving on that book I've been threatening you all with (a story about my great grandfather). But more on all of that soon. For now, please share my joy with me as I celebrate a small milestone in this Already Magical Year of 2018. Four days in? Not bad. Not bad at all!

May good things come to you all this year. I'm donning my Storyteller hat starting now. See you soon, in my stories and in the joy of telling them to the world.


Monday, October 23, 2017

I am so excited to announce that I have been accepted as a writer/author for This is my first foray into adoption writing, and I am very, very excited to embark on this journey. Please wish me well, and look for articles by me on (website and social media pages). I will be posting updates as my work gets published. As the person who's been editing other people's words for 25 years now, I am thrilled to be writing and publishing my very own words about a topic for which I care deeply and about a triad (the adoptee/adopter/birth parent triad) of which I am proudly a part. Please share in my joy, follow, and look for articles by yours truly!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's been a long time since I've blogged. Welcome back, me. This whole motherhood thing is keeping me pretty busy.

So, I'll plunge right into a "deep" topic here. 

It was a warm night in June 2014. We were eating ice cream with Jeff's parents at the Baskin Robbins in Olney, sitting near the fountain watching families chase after their kids. One woman, who was Caucasian, was supervising her two children walking on the wall. The children were of mixed race. It was clear to me that she was their mom--not by the way she looked but, rather, by the way she WAS with them: Her attentive guidance as they walked proudly on that wall. Her loosely holding the little one's fat little hand. Her intimate laughter with them. Her telling them "no" when they pushed it too far. Her hair, slightly mussed, because, when a vital piece of your heart and soul is walking alone for maybe the first time on a concrete wall, you don't much care what your hair is doing.

Then, Matthew said to me, "Mommy, if a kid's skin is different from the mom's skin, does that mean she's still his mom?" Without hesitating, I said, "Yup. Some kids' mommies have a different skin color, but they are still the kid's mommy. Like you and me." [Many times already, we've had the "you-are-my-son-but-you-didn't-grow-in-my-belly" conversation.]

He paused for a moment. Then, after much reflection, he said...

"Do you want to try my ice cream? It's really good: peach. What kind did YOU get?"

I will never forget that moment. There is nothing like a nice, deep talk...however brief, with a side of ice cream.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Diversity and The Conspicuous Family

My employer, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA for short) is so awesome, in so many ways. One such way is their commitment to diversity. ASHA has an entire Diversity Team, and for the month of September 2011, they are doing a Diversity Museum, where people can display items from their various cultures/backgrounds. I plan on bringing in the hanbok (formal Korean outfit worn at special occasions) that Matthew wore for his 1st birthday, as well as various other Korean cultural items (and adoption-related items) that we have begun gathering, as the multiracial family that we are!

As part of the ASHA Diversity Museum, I participated in a video montage in which the Diversity Team interviewed me about the ways in which I and my family are diverse. I talked about adoption and the Korean culture--about being what is known as a "conspicuous family" (I'll revisit The Triangle Stare in a minute; I'm fairly certain I've touched on this in much earlier blog postings) and about the value that we place, in our family, on the country/language/culture of Matthew's birth--something that means the world to us.

I talked briefly about the adoption process, what we went through in bringing Matthew home, and the fact that we are a family, despite the fact that we may look different from one another. If we seem to be functioning as a family, we ARE one! People often give us The Triangle Stare: Stare at Mom, move gaze across to Dad, move gaze down to baby, then pause, and look up at the mom again, across at the dad again, and down at the baby again. (And then, depending on who you are and how sensitive to you are to people's privacy, you may or may not ask us if we are Matthew's parents.) I work to reduce instances of The Triangle Stare all the time, although, honestly, I believe that people mean no malintent...we are all products of society's slight unwillingness to truly embrace the diversity of family and just accept the fact that if a group of people seem to be functioning as a family, it's pretty darn tootin' that they ARE one.

Here are some notes from what I prepared for my little interview. I showed lots of photos of Matthew, obviously. I've posted some recent photos of Matthew at the end of this blog.

Our “Conspicuous Family”

Kathleen Kelly Halverson: 50% Irish, 25% German, 25% Slovak
Jeffrey Brian Halverson: 25% Irish, some Armenian, some Russian
Matthew Seong-jin Halverson: 100% South Korean
Matthew’s Birth City: Busan (SE Korea)
Matthew’s “Foster City”: Seoul (NW Korea; capital city of South Korea)
Dialect of Busan: Gyeongsang
Languages spoken by us: English, basic survival Korean (we all hope to take classes together someday!)
Korean Alphabet: Hangul (derived from Chinese)

How does Hangul differ from Chinese?
[excerpted from]

Originally written using “Hanja” (Chinese characters), Korean is now mainly spelled in “Hangul,” which consists of 24 letters—14 consonants and 10 vowels—that are written in blocks of 2 to 5 characters. Unlike the Chinese writing system (including Japanese "Kanji"), "Hangul" is not an ideographic system. The shapes of the individual "Hangul" letters were designed to model the physical morphology of the tongue, palate, and teeth. Up to five letters join to form a syllabic unit.

Korean is spoken by more than 72 million people living on the Korean peninsula. Although it differs slightly in spelling, alphabet, and vocabulary between the two regions, Korean is the official language of both South Korea and North Korea. Outside of the Korean peninsula, there are about two million people in China who speak Korean as their first language, another two million in the United States, 700,000 in Japan, and 500,000 in the Russian regions of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The Korean language has five major dialects in South Korea and one in North Korea. Despite the geographical and socio-political dialect differences, Korean is relatively homogeneous, being mutually understandable among speakers from different areas.

English/Korean (some basics)


Annyong hashimnigga
(formal; means peacefulness, well-being; literally translated, “Are things peaceful for you?”)

Annyong haseo
(informal, I believe; my Korean friends use this to say “hello” rather than the above formal phrase)


Annyonghi kyeseyo
(said to someone who is staying)

Annyonghi kaseyo
(said to someone who is leaving)

Nice to Meet You
BAN-GAP-SUP-NEE-DA (phonetic version)



Thank You
Kamsa hamnida (pronounced KAM-SA'-MEE-DAH)