One of my mission is to help corporate workers worldwide reduce stress by providing strategies for enhancing their wellbeing on every level: soul, body, and mind. Life OF Emerald is a social impact-driven company.
– Kate Lee 이, CEO
Q: How did you learn about your royal lineage?
My dad mentioned it when I was 33 and it prompted me to learn more about my family tree books in the library. When we dissect the last name in Korean culture, we can know its origin. My last name is Lee 이. When we then break it down by looking at the Chinese character 李, it traces back to the Joseon Dynasty 1392-1897 AD. The fourth king of the dynasty is King Se Jong. He reigned between 1397 to 1450 AD and had 6 wives on record. The first wife is considered a queen. Her name was So Han Wang, and had eight sons and two daughters. The first wife’s children are called Prince and princesses, and the other wives’ kids aren’t called that. My lineage comes from the eighth son of the first wife of King Sejong, Prince Young Eung Dae Gun. He’s known to be the King’s favourite son.
My mom’s last name is Kim 김 (Korean) 金 (Chinese) from Gyeongju province. The last name comes from the Shila dynasty. Her ancestors were Kings of the Shila dynasty 57 BC – 935 AD. In the Joseon Dynasty, Shila ancestors were the Prime Minister class and they were scholars.
Family tree of Lee 이 (Jeonju)
Q: Once you learnt you descended from royalty, how do you feel that shifted how you viewed and showed up in the world?
Not knowing how sacred my lineage is, I had unknowingly allowed others to trample over me for years.
At 29, I was working at a financial district in Seoul, teaching corporate students how to speak fluent English. Around that time, I knew that I was suppressing painful emotions, and that manifested as workaholism. I finally built the courage to resign, then booked a flight to San Francisco to meet my friends. On the journey, I checked into a haunted hotel in San Francisco. I was so frightened that I called my ex-boyfriend, who I was supposed to meet up with him in Washington, DC, for President Obama’s inauguration. I told him about my ghost experience on the phone and he recommended I speak to his mom who was a psychologist. I trusted that she could help me. I told her the story, and the first and only thing she says is: “You’re crazy. Go back to your country.” I was beyond shocked and returned to Korea. A psychologist cannot call someone who seeks their help crazy. So I realised this was a matter of abusing power and sadly, racism.
When I returned to Seoul, I started blogging about dating that guy and said the experience was the worst mistake of my life. I took responsibility for that. Lo and behold, many people commented negatively and cyberbullying happened. I bullied back and fast forward 3 weeks, I had an out-of-body experience due to dehydration and shock. I called my soul back: “No, I’m not ready to go yet. Come back to me.” Then, I checked into a mental hospital for three months. That was 2009. Fast forward to 2015 and beginning to learn about my lineage, I began respecting myself more and shifting my story to one of inner resilience, and peace. That period of my life was my version of the“Spiritual awakening” that all healers go through. So it was a gift in disguise. That’s the hero’s journey I’ve won.
Q. When you think about power in the sense of a Queen or King ruling over a country, how do you think that translates into the kind of power that people can exercise in their day-to-day life?
The more power you have, the more responsibility you have to walk an ethical path. This is one of the greatest lessons I learned from the book, The Just King.
No one is perfect, including me. And by knowing that I can wisely wield this power that I have, from my lineage and the horrific incidents that happened to me. One of the ways I do that is prayer. The spiritual realm is real, as much as the practical realm is real. Everyone has the freedom to connect and consult the supreme beings before making any decisions and honestly reflect on our behaviour and intentions towards others.
Q. When you learnt about the Joseon Dynasty Legacy, do you ever feel any type of pressure to continue the legacy in any way?
That’s an interesting angle. I don’t feel pressure necessarily, in continuing the legacy. However, I feel fueled and passionate about reconnecting what was beautiful in ancient times in the Joseon Dynasty before it was annihilated by the Japanese to modern Korea. That’s a fun project that I’m brainstorming within my social impact company, Life Of Emerald. But I’m not centralized to just Korea; I care about humanity on a global scale. Would love to film ancient sites of the world and give them life.
Q. Knowing what King Se Jong stood for in history and how you’re trying to invigorate that into modern times, do you feel like you ever gravitate towards some of the things that were left behind in that era?
Absolutely. One famous thing King Se Jong did for Korea was to create the language.
When we compare his contribution, I’d like to create a system that benefits humanity with my network of scholars from the Stanford Graduate School of Business LEAD program. One that helps people respect and love one another, bring harmony and prosperity, and be self-motivated to do good in society so that people can thrive in balance all over the world. I think that’s what we’re lacking right now. Through us all respecting our bodies as a sacred sanctuary, we can co-create a global sanctuary together where everyone feels dignified. The country’s health is connected to global health. This is the mission of Life Of Emerald- uplift humanity. Emerald symbolically means healing, spiritual awareness, protection, wisdom, compassion, and unconditional love. So it’s all in line.
Q. What’s the most impactful self-discovery tool that you’ve used and feel would help people alleviate their suffering and live a happier life?
After 11 years of spiritual practice and self-inquiry, my favourite tool recommendations are:
- Carl Jung’s Shadow Work: It teaches how to view challenges as an opportunity to heal what’s unresolved inside and take responsibility for your actions without blaming external factors.
- Soul Retrieval Meditation: It helps one to reclaim their sovereignty. Since using it, I feel more empowered to do what I want to do and care less about criticism. I’m content knowing that helping just one person thrive is a satisfying benchmark.
Q. Are there any royal beauty traditions that have been passed down through the generations from King Sejong’s Queen, that your family still practices today?
For outer beauty, in the royal family, they wore traditional Korean cloth called Hanbok. We no longer have a monarchy but some of us continue to humbly celebrate New Years’ and Thanksgiving in Hanbok.
For inner beauty traditions, examples are being respectful with words, bowing to elders, and showing gestures of gratitude like buying gifts to loved ones and friends around me. And being considerate of other’s wellness.
Q. Lastly, what’s one piece of ancient wisdom that you’ve come to learn and feel everyone should know?
The concept of life happens for us. When we surrender our desires through prayer and meditation, we’re always reminded just to trust, we don’t need to worry about tomorrow; tomorrow takes care of itself. That helps cultivate inner peace that allows us to always stay centered. Make a decision that you’re worthy and entitled to serenity. The journey can take some time, but the first step is deciding that you want and deserve it.