Citizenship DayPress Release

Press Release: Korean Americans Travel to Washington, DC on Sept. 17 to Celebrate Citizenship Day with a Day of Civic Engagement

By September 14, 2009 No Comments

For Planning Purposes: September 14, 2009
Contact: Sookyung Oh, 202-567-1397, soh@nakasec.org

Korean Americans Travel to Washington, DC on Sept. 17 to Celebrate Citizenship Day with a Day of Civic Engagement
Hundreds of Americans converging in DC to celebrate citizenship by pushing for the transformative change they voted for

(Washington, DC.) – Practicing citizenship at its best, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its affiliates – Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago, IL and the Korean Resource Center (KRC) in Los Angeles, CA – are sending over 150 representatives to Washington, DC. Hundreds of community members from 29 states are marking Citizenship Day with a day-long series of activities that allow for deeper and higher levels of civic engagement.

“Korean Americans have been organizing for decades in unity with others to realize real change that uplifts the lives of all. We are now at a crossroads in America where the changes we’ve long sought in the fields of social and economic justice seem so possible. By bringing together people tied together by their community service but as diverse as a 74-year grandfather in Koreatown, Los Angeles, a 22-year old Vietnamese American newly naturalized citizen in New Orleans, and a 34-year mother in rural Downey, Idaho, to come to D.C., we are sending a message that we can’t afford to be passive. Our responsibility as a part of this society is to come together to hold our elected officials responsible to advancing real solutions,” said EunSook Lee, executive director of NAKASEC.

“This isn’t just about me, but about the hundreds more in my family, my church, my neighborhood and my community who want to take on the responsibility of achieving the best for America,” said Catherine Pyun, one of the participants traveling all the way from Oakland, California.

“For months, our members raised money for this important convening in D.C. by selling supermarket coupons, putting together a Korean cultural concert, and other mini-fundraisers. They did this because like all Americans, we see that too much is at stake right now with health care and immigration reform,” stated Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of KRC.

“We marched. We participated in town hall meetings. We voted,” said Becky Belcore, executive director of KRCC. “Now, we’re advocating, calling and faxing because that is the next step in making change a reality and becoming fully engaged citizens. We can’t move forward as a nation if we don’t tackle our major economic and social problems. And as citizens we must do everything in our power to see to it that the actions of our elected representatives reflect the will of the people.”

On September 17, participants will visit multiple congressional offices, participate in separate dialogues to discuss health care and immigration reform, and take part in rallies that are part of “Unity in Movement,” an effort organized by various national and local socially progressive organizations. The Citizenship Day activities are a continuation of the activism seen during the August recess in Congressional districts all over the country. Now that Congress is back in session, they are following their representatives there to continue hammering home the message of reform.

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The following participants are available for interview before, during, and after their time in D.C. Below are their stories of how they both serve their community and will hope to strengthen and build America’s future. To set up an interview, contact: L. Sookyung Oh, 202.567.1397, soh@nakasec.org.

Catherine Pyun (Bay Area, CA) In 2007, Catherine Pyun’s mother experienced firsthand the prevailing lack of cultural competent health care when her mother was diagnosed with aggressive liver disease. Because her mother spoke casual and conversant English, health care providers did not take necessary measures to ensure that she fully understood the gravity of her medical situation. Catherine’s mother was made unaware of her health choices and her condition deteriorated to the point that she needed a liver transplant to survive. At the time of the transplant candidacy interview, Catherine and her family specifically requested language assistance, which the hospital refused to provide. In desperation, Catherine interpreted, many times unsure how to explain a particular medical term or concept. Thankfully and despite these challenges, Catherine’s mom did get the liver transplant. Since then, Catherine has been left wondering how many more Americans are being denied the best health care they deserve because of cultural incompetency.

Song Sun Pak (Chicago, IL) Mr. Pak has lived in Chicago for the last 22 years with his wife. Born in Korea, he currently volunteers at KRCC with their civic engagement campaigns. In 2006 and 2008, Mr. Pak helped his neighbors at his senior housing complex to register to vote. He is coming to Washington D.C. to take civic engagement to the next level and talk to his legislators about immigration. Ten years ago, Mr. Pak filed a petition for his ailing 83-year old mother-in-law to join them here in the U.S. because she was alone in Korea and had no one to care for her. Mr. Pak’s wife had to travel back and forth between Korea and the U.S. to take care of her sick mother over 50 times. They both grieved her passing in June 2009, feeling guilty of all the missed birthdays and anniversaries and that they could not do more to care for her.

The Unity In Movement Mobilization is a collaborative effort by the following community organizations: the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center, the Korean Resource Center, Center for Community Change, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Health Rights Organizing Project, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, and the Southeast Asia Resource Center.