Do you ever wonder who the people at NAKASEC and our affiliate centers, KRC and KRCC, are? Not just the staff, but the community members, volunteers, interns and board members? Well they are the ones who keep us grounded, help drive our campaigns and keep us motivated. You may have seen our seniors on the State Capitol fighting against budget cuts, our young people dancing, singing and shouting out for youth rights or our children playing poongmul (Korean drums) at rallies and marches.
Well, in order for you to get to know us better, we are rolling out our #meetNAKASEC Fridays where we will profile one person within our network.
Today, we’re featuring Olivia Jee-Un Park, former Program Associate at NAKASEC! We hope you enjoy!
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, raised around Southern California, attended college in Massachusetts and am now back in the northern ‘burbs of Los Angeles. Sometimes, when feeling gracious, I answer the question, “Where are you really from,” with the fact that my parents and their families immigrated from Korea in the mid 70s.
Q: How did you get involved with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC?
A: A simple text message about a job opening at NAKASEC combined with my affinity for Korean American communities and groups, Asian American issues and activism and progressive movements. At my job interview with EunSook (former Executive Director of NAKASEC), I realized that NAKASEC was a place where many of my primary passions intersected. I worked two incredible years as a Program Associate and though I have since transitioned on from my staff position, I consider myself a lifer.
Q: What was one of the first actions or campaigns you remember being involved in?
A: The Citizenship Day Mobilization of 2009 – Unity in Movement. It was the first of many roundtrips from LA to DC for me and it was one of the largest mobilizations for NAKASEC, bringing multiple generations of Korean Americans from over thirty states to participate in town halls and advocacy for health and immigration reform on Capitol Hill. The mobilization aimed to expand the notion of citizenship from paper documents to political participation regardless of immigration status.
Q: Tell us of a memorable moment with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC.
A: The AKASIA retreat to Palm Springs in late December 2010. It was a space for students to build relationships, to regroup after another disappointing vote in Congress on the DREAM Act and ultimately to get ready to keep going. I was floored by one long-time member’s training of the trainers presentation on AB540 so that all the AKASIA members could then go on to help more students as well as build their skills in the process. And when we were done, we had fun really getting to know one another through game after game of Mafia. 🙂
Q: What hope do you see for the Korean American community?
A: I see hope in the increasing diversity of the “Korean American experience.” The increasing possibilities for identity formation. This is a huge first step for a community whose roots are still largely homogenous. The small but growing group of progressive Korean Americans also gives me hope. KRC, KRCC and NAKASEC especially give me hope with the ethos of working across social justice issues and in true solidarity with all brothers and sisters, not just fellow Korean Americans.
Q: If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be and why?
A: Maybe Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris since I could then take my first trip to Paris and furthermore time travel to two different eras in the Paris of yore and meet some enduring heavyweights in literature and art.
Q: What is your comfort food and why?
A: Donkatsu (pork cutlet) because it is fried and tangy (the sauce) deliciousness. My favorite donkatsu is the one my halmuni (grandmother) would make for me.
Meet other folks at KRC, KRCC and NAKASEC!