It was March 2021, when father and son David and Mike Han found themselves at Stop Asian Hate rallies in the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings. The father-son duo had diverged some since Mike’s youth, as Mike shied away from his Korean heritage, but, through the years, they’ve learned how to better listen to each other’s experiences and build a deeper understanding of who they are as individuals 

Born in Ann Arbor, now based in Detroit, Mike Han has found success as an artist. His visual art is inspired by graffiti and Korean calligraphy and can be found all across metro Detroit. Plus, it has been exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. Born in South Korea, his father, David Han, emigrated to Michigan in the early 70’s.

Mike Han working on his artwork

Detroit-based artist Mike Han sprays graffiti calligraphy on old newspaper clippings in his studio, “The House of Han.” | Photo by One Detroit

David recently served as a commissioner with the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (MAPAAC) and is currently the co-founder and CEO of Surround Safety Laboratories, a company that works on surround airbag technology. David’s work brought the family—including wife Sarah, Mike, and daughter Laura—to different parts of the country, including Connecticut and West Michigan. 

Making the move from Connecticut to a small town in West Michigan posed some challenges for the whole family. It wouldn’t be until years later after a crucial moment with his parents that Mike would want to explore reconnecting to his culture, agreeing to go on a discovery trip to Korea with his family. 

The father-son duo sat down to participate in One Detroit’s AAPI Story Series, which tells stories that reflect the authentic lives of Asian Americans, to explore their generational differences, the complexities of relating to one’s cultural heritage, the sometimes differing paths of parents and their children, and what it means to each of them to be Korean American. 

Part One: Connecting via activism, art and the Korean American experience

Mike and David Han share how, separately, they were drawn to the anti-Asian hate rallies in 2021; David shares his frustration being seen as a “perpetual foreigner” while Mike shares how his work at a show in a small West Michigan town reveals his experience as a Korean American.

Part Two: Life in West Michigan, dealing with stereotypes

Mike and David talk about life after moving to West Michigan, learning about and responding to Asian stereotypes, and feeling isolated in the area’s homogenous community.

Part Three: Bridging generational differences

Mike and David talk about the impact of expectations between parents and children, and the generational challenges that might typify some Korean American families but are exemplified in so many families across several other Asian subcultures.  

Part Four: Discovering The House of Han

Mike shares the story behind naming his arts-based company “The House of Han” and his discovery he’s a descendant of Korean dynasty and a calligrapher of the ruling class.

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