A “Rosa” by any other name: South Korean teen Rosa Park shares name with Civil Rights icon

Posted: Thursday, 28 February 2013

MONTGOMERY - What’s in a name? To answer that question, 16-year-old Rosa Park from South Korea travelled across the world to Troy University’s Montgomery Campus to learn more about her famous namesake.

Park, a 9th grader in her hometown of Seoul, was named by her parents in honor of Rosa Parks, whose 1955 arrest aboard a city bus helped launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Park and her mother recently spent a week at TROY’s Rosa Parks Museum, volunteering, studying and becoming better acquainted with the woman with whom she shares a name.

“When I was little, I really didn’t understand the origin of my name,” Park said. “But I started to research her and learned that she was an amazing woman who changed the world.”

Junglim Lee, Park’s mother, said she and her husband were inspired to name their daughter after Rosa Parks while they were living in Tuscaloosa years earlier. Her husband, who has the surname Park, was an MBA student at the University of Alabama, and Lee said that during that time they first learned about the Civil Rights movement in Alabama.

They were particularly inspired by the courage of Rosa Parks, Lee said.

“I would like her to grow up and have the character and dignity of Rosa Parks,” Lee said of her daughter.

Although some details of the African-American Civil Rights Movement are taught in Korean schools, Park said she felt inspired to journey to the U.S to learn more about the movement, and Rosa Parks, firsthand. Her stop in Montgomery in February was part of a longer trip that went on to include stops in Atlanta and Harlem.

“It is a great honor to be named after Rosa Parks,” she said. “She is a woman who made a choice and the whole world changed.”

Georgette Norman, director of the Rosa Parks Museum, said Park and her mother first contacted the museum via email before making the trip. Norman said she was excited to meet Park in person, and said Park spent several hours each day at the museum studying Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

“I was just so impressed, not only with her, but also her mother, that they would want to come here and explore her namesake,” Norman said.

Park has become a member of the museum’s youth ambassador program, and will carry information about Rosa Parks back to Korea to share with her high school and local library.

“We definitely plan on keeping in touch with her,” Norman said.

Rosa Park

Rosa Park, right, and her mother, Junglim Lee, pose with a bust of Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks at Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery. Park, a 16-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, was named by her parents in honor of Rosa Parks, and she and her mother recently spent a week at the museum to learn more about her namesake.