DULUTH, Georgia — Randy Park, 22, is waiting for police to give him his mother’s body. Then he will plan her funeral and bury her.
Since her death, Park has become the head of his family’s household. He has to make sure he and his younger brother are taken care of. That they have a home. Food to eat.
Since his mother was killed and became national news, there has been no time to grieve. There is only what comes next.
Grant was a single mom to Park and his 21-year-old brother, Eric Park, working long hours at Gold Spa, a job that required her to be away from home for days or weeks at a time.
When she was with her sons, she always made time for meals, for music, for dancing. They live in Duluth, a city known as Koreatown in Georgia with its plethora of Korean-owned businesses and restaurants.
To Park, none of the restaurants stood close to his mom’s home-cooked meals. His favorite dish was a Korean stew known as 김치찌개, or kimchi jjigae.
“I would eat like three bowls of it every day. Apparently, it’s an unhealthy amount,” said Park. “Everybody says this about their mom’s cooking. I don’t think I’ll ever have better kimchi jjigae anywhere else. Not even in Korea.”
Park said his mom was a teenager at heart. She loved to hang out with friends, go dancing, listen to Dutch DJ Tiësto and sing karaoke. She was a great singer, he said.
“She dedicated her whole life to raising us and even then she found time to enjoy herself with her friends,” he said.
To Park, Grant was more than just “mom.” She was one of his best friends. He is his mother’s son, he said, from his face to his personality, filled with kindness and understanding.
“I could say whatever word comes to my head for her, but it doesn’t encompass a fraction of what she meant to us,” he said. “I can’t articulate or express in any way describe what she was or what she meant to us.”
Park learned of his mother’s death Tuesday shortly after the shooting. He grabbed his brother and drove the 30 minutes to Gold Spa. He’d never seen where she worked.
“I just wanted to go there firsthand, see and hear everything regarding what happened,” he said.
Park said his mom shielded her sons for most of their lives from where she worked. Grant initially told them she worked at a makeup parlor with friends before Park found out and confronted her. He said he didn’t ask for details because he saw it as an invasion of privacy.
Park said he told her, “I don’t have any problem with what you’re doing or what you would do for us as long as surely it’s with good intentions. Then nothing else matters.”
Hyun Jung Grant was one of eight killed, including Soon C. Park, Suncha Kim, Daoyou Feng, Yong A. Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels and Xiaojie Tan.
Tan was a business owner and would have turned 50 this week. Yaun was a mother of a 13-year-old son and an 8-month-old daughter.
A GoFundMe for Park and his brother has raised more than $1.5 million to help cover rent and other monthly bills. “Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world,” he wrote in the post.
Park said he had a hard time expressing his gratitude for the help his family has received since the shootings. In his GoFundMe, he wrote, “To put it bluntly, I can’t believe you guys exist. People I will probably never meet, hear, nor express my thanks to. This is simply a change in my life. I don’t even think I have a proper grasp on how much this is.”
Park said his main focus now is to lay his mom to rest. Authorities have not yet released her body due to legal complications. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, his aunt in Korea isn’t able to come and help.
“I won’t do anything else until all that whole process is done,” he said. “I can’t work on anything efficiently until then.”
Park said he’s been overwhelmed by the spotlight: reporters knocking on his door, community members calling and texting, phone messages from someone claiming that President Joe Biden wants to talk to him.
His shy mother, he said, would be embarrassed by the attention.
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