Minnesota Sisters to Represent US and South Korea in the Olympics

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by Heejae Park
Pyeongchang Olympic Ice hockey stadium [Image: Korea-Canada Blog official Image]

Two sisters will play their first ice hockey games as national athletes in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games, but for opposing teams. Marissa Brandt, the elder sister, plays for South Korea, and Hannah Brandt plays for the United States.

The Minnesotan parents decided to adopt Marissa from South Korea four and half months before Hannah was born. The two grew up together outside of the Twin Cities, and began skating lessons at the age of five. Hannah earned a spot on the United States National Hockey Team at the age of eighteen, while Marissa played for a Minnesota Division III school. In the summer of 2015, the South Korean government asked Marissa’s coach if one of her team’s players was available to play with South Korea’s national team. Marissa did not miss the chance. It took a year of processing to attain dual-citizenship, and now her South Korean passport bears the name Yoonjung, Park.

The South Korean government is investing nearly $20 million into its hockey program to prepare for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Marissa’s teammate, Randi Heesoo Griffin has been on the national team since 2015, and was born in North Carolina. She started as a South Korean Women’s Hockey Player in 2015.

The Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics have facilitated exchanges between the United States and South Korea even on the county level. Gangneung city, to which Pyeongchang county belongs, has had sister relationship with Loudon County, Virginia since June 2015. The South Korean city offered to promote Loudon County by including advertisements in the Korean Air Magazine, and building up a display case in Gangneung’s government center while the world watches the Olympics.

The US Olympic committee and United States Force Korea(USFK) plans to hold a gala event to celebrate the Pyeongchang Olympics and show support for South Korea. Patrick Sandusky, the committee’s chief external affairs officer stated at a press briefing that the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics would be a showcase for the whole world to see Korea.

Heejae Park is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul.