Columbia Law School
The Third Tunnel
Write a personal statement describing your background and goals and reasons for applying to law school.
Recently, I found myself seventy-two meters underground, in a North Korean invasion tunnel discovered not fifty kilometers from Seoul. The tunnel is wide enough for ten thousand armed soldiers to pass through in an hour, but not so high that someone tall needn’t occasionally stoop. A cross-sectional diagram tells the story best: South Korea in the 1970s, keeping rigorously to its side of the thirty-eighth parallel, while deep beneath the barbed wire and military guard, North Koreans with dynamite and wheelbarrows crept towards Seoul like a silent steady spark through a wire.
I find that diagram also useful in telling my own story, and for illustrating a theme that runs through my undergraduate and graduate, and teaching careers. To better explain, back to the tunnel: it was carved some 1,600 plus meters into pure granite—“the most hardest rock,” said the guide, using only “the most primitive methods” (a pick, a shovel). Meanwhile, a city entire stood on the thin margin of its undermining.
That illustration was twice meaningful to me. It meant one thing to someone who had inherited, as all Korean-Americans do, a history of hyphens and irreversible decisions: great-grandparents left behind when the border was drawn, immigrant...
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