Skip to main content

Meet NAKASEC | Joyce Kim

By February 24, 2012No Comments

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 Joyce Kim, a  member of Ilkwanori, KRCC‘s pungmul performance troupe! We hope you enjoy!


Q: What’s your name?
A: Joyce Kim or 김정은. If I’m speaking English when I introduce myself, I’ll go with Joyce, and if I’m speaking Korean, I’ll use 정은.

Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Seoul, but came to Chicago when I was 3 and grew up here until I went to Claremont for college and then lived in Korea for a couple years after that. I’m in a transitional phase right now so I’m not quite sure how to answer this question, but in general, I think of myself as being from the Korean diaspora.

Q: How did you get involved with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC?
A: Even though I’d grown up around Chicago almost my whole life, I’d never heard of KRCC until I went to college in California, which is when I first got politicized and started doing community work. So I was doing all this work in LA, but unexpectedly had to get knee surgery in Chicago. I still wanted to do social justice work while I was recovering so I asked one of my mentors in LA if they knew any organizations looking for volunteers in Chicago and I ended up at KRCC through this weird, roundabout way.

Q: What was one of the first actions or campaigns you remember being involved in?
I think the first project I did with KRCC was putting together an election guide for the 2008 elections. We sent out surveys asking candidates for their position on issues like immigration reform and hiring policies, compiled and translated their responses, and made them available to voters.

Q: Why do you do the work that you do with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC?
A: Well, right now, I just do Korean drumming with KRCC—teaching youth and being a member of Ilkwanori, our performance troupe. I think I’m still trying to figure out what the role of culture is in politics and how it can be used to organize.  I’m hoping to use my experiences to figure out what I think about it, but in the meantime, I think there is something valuable about being connected to history and culture through drumming and being empowered to make noise and take up space with our bodies.

Q: Tell us of a memorable moment with KRC, KRCC and/or NAKASEC
A: My first summer at KRCC, I taught drumming for the first time to a group of youth who wanted to start a drumming group at their high school. It was a great experience because I got to do politicization workshops along with drumming workshops and it was really heartening to meet youth who were so open and eager to change the world. I think we grew a lot together from that experience, and it was just a really magical summer full of love and laughter.

Q: What hope do you see for the Korean American community?
I work with youth a lot, and I’m also pretty young so I’m hopeful about the youth in the community. I’m always excited to meet other young, radical organizers (who are supported and mentored by veteran organizers of course!) and knowing I’m not the only one who believes in collective action and change is always uplifting for me.

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?
I don’t know who this person is, but I would want to trade places with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s artist best friend (he must have had one of those, right?). When I was in elementary school, we would go to the Art Institute of Chicago on field trips, and I always loved the huge pile of candy in the corner but was maybe too young to really understand it on my own. I only recently found out it was by this artist named Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and as an adult, I found his piece to be a wonderful affirmation of queerness and beauty and grief. I’d want to trade places with his friend so I could talk to him about life and politics.

Q: What is your comfort food and why?
I don’t know if this counts, but I love tea. NON-caffeinated. One time during finals week when I was in school, I kept drinking truckloads of white tea to try to relax because I was really stressed out, but I had crazy insomnia all week and couldn’t sleep even though I had so much work the next morning, which stressed me out even more. Later I learned white tea comes from the same plant as green tea, which has caffeine in it. D’oh! Anyways, long story short: warm, flowery liquids without caffeine make me feel better about life.


Meet other folks at KRC, KRCC and NAKASEC!