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City stories : AK Salling

Written by
Hahna Yoon

AK Salling (Adoptee and owner of Mad og Hygge in Changjeon-dong). By Kim Thompson

Please share a little bit about your background.
I was adopted when I was about 1.5 years old and arrived in Denmark in 1974, where I grew up in a provincial town as the only adopted child out of three daughters. I moved to Korea in the summer of 2013, and the first year I lived here I assisted adoptees applying for visa or dual citizenship at an adoptee-run NGO.Since late 2014, Ivolunteer part time for Korea Adoption Services (KAS) and I also own and operate Mad og Hygge.

How would you describe Mad og Hygge?
I opened my cooking and baking studio ( a year ago, and I teach how to bake and cook primarily Danish breads, cakes and food. My style is very casual and relaxed, as Danes tend to be very informal. I wanted to have the cooking studio because, in my opinion, having your own business is being independent. I wish to show the culture I grew up with as a consequence of being adopted. I find it important that Koreans understand that although adoptees may look Korean, our cultural upbringing has a significant impact on our values and mindset, which, in many cases, differ from the Korean way of thinking. 

How does being an adoptee, small business owner here in Seoul impact Korean society and the adoptee community?
I hope that Koreans realize [through this] that adoptees are independent adults who are able to establish ourselves here. I don’t speak Korean fluently, and I don’t fit into the perception Koreans have for women my age. However, I don’t see any of this as being a hindrance, but rather as me being myself with my cultural background.For the adoptee community, I hope it somehow shows that it is possible to be independent and to empower yourself if you work for it.

What advice would you offer Korean adoptees and other diasporic Koreans who are living in Seoul and who are, perhaps, struggling to create a niche for themselves in this society?
Make your space on your own terms here in a respectful way and you will find that there is room for you and that most of the limitations stopping you are in your own mind! 

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