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NEW YORK — 23andMe caused Leonard Kim not one identity crisis but two.

The first came in 2016, when Kim, who was raised believing he was 100% Korean, took the company’s DNA ancestry test and learned he was almost half Japanese. Then, earlier this month, he was out for drinks with his wife and some friends near his Los Angeles home when someone questioned his Japanese ancestry.

So Kim, 34, took out his phone and consulted the 23andMe website. That’s when he discovered his ethnic identity had changed. The site that once told him he was about 40% Japanese now pegged that figure at 5%. He was, in an instant, fully Korean again.

Korea’s history with Japan is one stained with colonization, cultural oppression, and bloodshed. It took months of denial and soul-searching for Kim to accept a previously unknown Japanese lineage. Learning it was all a waste felt like existential whiplash.

Thumbimage via STAT – Molly Ferguson for STAT

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