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 Zu Kim, President of KRC‘s Board of Directors! We hope you enjoy!
Q: What’s your name?
A: Zu Kim (ZuWhan Kim / 김주환). My Korean name (sounds rather like Ju-Huan) means “shining broadly”. When I was applying for a visa, I didn’t really know how ‘J’ sounded like so I chose to spell my name with a ‘Z’ instead of a ‘J’ and later learned that these two letters sounded very different. My ignorance gave me a very unique name — and I like it!
Q: Where are you from?
A: I grew up mostly in Seoul, Korea. I came to the States for my graduate study in computer science at USC.
Q: How did you get involved with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC?
A: Around the time I came to the States, I was very interested in singing (rock music, in particular) and wanted to learn pansori (Korean traditional singing). I heard that KRC was offering a poongmool class so I visited to see if they taught pansori, too. KRC didn’t teach pansori and their beginner’s poongmool class did not interest me — but the people at KRC and the work they do did interest me.
Q: What was one of the first actions or campaigns you remember being involved in?
A: In 1997, North Korea was suffering from a terrible food crisis due to consecutive floods. In response, there was a North Korea Food Aid Campaign initiated by Young Koreans United with the UN World Food Program. KRC was also involved in the efforts and through them I became involved. In the beginning there was strong resistance in the Korean American community due to the red complex, but we eventually gained support from many of the community members as people became more aware of the food situation in North Korea. As a result, we and the UN World Food Program raised more than $1 million and a large part of it was $1 and $5 donations we raised at Korean markets.
Q: Why do you do the work that you do with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC?
A: KRC is different from many other non-profit organizations. We identify the community’s issue by providing service, then try to solve it by organizing the community members who are affected by the issue. For example, many Korean American seniors seek help because they do not understand complicated medical welfare documents. So we organized the seniors, identified the issues with them and held many actions and visited the offices of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services to let them know how our community was impacted by the lack of language access. As a result, now they can get important letters translated in Korean and, more importantly, they now know that they can make a difference by organizing. After all, as you can see from our Korean name (민족학교, literally translated to ‘Korean Education Center’), our goal is to empower the community and young people.
Q: Tell us of a memorable moment with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC?
A: KRC participated in a census campaign in 2000 and a temporary census worker was assigned to KRC. I was a volunteer coordinator then, and tried to organize her — she is now my wife!
Q: What hope do you see for the Korean American community?
A: When I see the AKASIA members, mostly undocumented college students who study and work hard, I see bright hope for the community. Sufferings can be a blessing in disguise.
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: I have many — a rock star at a concert, a little child with no worries, one of Jesus’ disciples 2000 years ago, someone who can fly, and so on. In fact, for some of them, I dream about doing it for real even though I’m already 40. For example, I can plan to have one week in my life completely away from worries.
Q: What is your comfort food and why?
A: My favorite food is bossam (보쌈, steamed pork belly with vegetables) but I am trying not to eat much meat for my health and for the environment. ^^
Meet other folks at KRC, KRCC and NAKASEC!