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Fighting for Nan-hui Jo

story by SEUNG Y. LEE
with additional reporting by VIJI SUNDARAM, New America Media

Woodland, Calif.—Dozens of supporters of Nan-hui Jo packed a Sacramento-area courtroom on April 28, donning purple shirts and pins to express solidarity with the single mother whose legal case has galvanized the Korean American community and advocacy groups focused on domestic violence prevention and immigrants’ rights.

They appeared for Jo’s sentencing at the hands of a state judge. In early March, a jury found the 43-year-old guilty of felony child abduction for fleeing to South Korea with her American-born daughter, allegedly to escape abusive behavior from the girl’s father.

At the Yolo County courthouse, Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg, after noting this was a “unique case,” reduced Jo’s conviction to a misdemeanor and sentenced her to 175 days in jail—time already served—and three years’ informal probation. The judge also ordered Jo’s release from the county jail where she has spent the past eight months.

Nevertheless, as of KoreAm’s press date, the chances of Jo’s reunion with her 6-year-old daughter—who is currently in the custody of the father, Iraq war veteran and substitute teacher Jesse Charlton—remain uncertain.

Following her sentencing, Jo was transferred into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has a deportation hold on the mother.

Immediately after the sentencing, Jo’s supporters gathered around the Yolo County courthouse steps, carrying signs and banners that read, “Stand with Nan-hui.”

“We will continue to fight for justice because [Jo] is still at risk of being detained and deported by ICE,” said Hyejin Shim, a spokeswoman for the Oakland-based national “Stand With Nan-hui” campaign. “This trial has been a mess of victim-blaming, anti-immigrant and sexist rhetoric that has undergirded the whole process from start to finish.”

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Jo first came to the United States in 2002 on a student visa to study photography at the University of Southern California. Three years later, she married a U.S. citizen and moved to Connecticut. When her husband became abusive, Jo obtained a temporary restraining order and moved to Sacramento.

Jo met Charlton in 2007 while taking a photography class at Sacramento City College. They became romantically involved and had a daughter. They named her Vitz Da, which means “all light” in Korean, although the girl is known as Hwi.

Jo’s visa problems began in 2009. She received a letter from ICE, informing her that her student visa had expired and that her husband no longer supported her green card petition. ICE told Jo she should voluntarily leave the country. At the time, the aspiring filmmaker was working as a waitress at several Korean restaurants.

Around this time, Jo was also experiencing volatility in her relationship with Charlton. During Jo’s trial in February, the 32-year-old war veteran admitted that he once grabbed Jo by her throat and threw her up against the wall after he claimed she tossed their infant daughter to him. Charlton, who served two tours of duty as a machine gunner in Mosul, Iraq, testified that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that causes memory loss, depression and erratic behavior.

Charlton, according to Jo’s attorneys, also testified that Jo called the police on him, after he broke his hand hitting the wall near her head and punched the car’s steering wheel while she was in the car with him. No charges were filed against Charlton and the police told him to leave, take some space and come back later, according to court transcripts.

At trial, Jo said that she left for South Korea in 2009 with Hwi, then just an infant, because she no longer had legal status in the U.S., had no family members in the U.S. and has limited English proficiency. She also cited her fear of being around an abusive domestic partner.

Jo said she told Charlton of her decision to leave the country; he said she did not.

While Jo was in Korea, Charlton filed a complaint with law enforcement, claiming his girlfriend had abducted their child. In the nearly five years Jo was in Korea, Charlton said he sent Jo scores of emails, letting her know he had finished college, found work as a substitute teacher and that he missed his daughter. Jo responded to only one email, he said.

Last July, Jo flew to Hawaii on a tourist visa with Hwi to visit potential schools for her daughter. When Jo arrived at the airport, a U.S. child abduction unit, officials from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Charlton were waiting for her. She was arrested on child abduction charges.

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As word of her case spread worldwide, Jo has seen an outpouring of support from such groups as the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse, the Asian Law Caucus and Immigration Youth Coalition.

Supporters from Seoul to Sacramento have sent Jo dozens of letters and drummed up support through social media, arguing the case should not have been prosecuted at all since Jo is a domestic violence victim. In November, Jo filed an application for a “U Visa,” given to undocumented immigrants who can prove they were victims of a crime.

One of those supporters, Juhee Kwon, said that Jo has been “a wonderful mother” to Hwi and deserves to have her child back. “For her, living without her daughter is unthinkable,” she said.

Groups have also raised money for Jo’s legal costs, hiring well-known criminal appellate attorney Dennis Riordan to handle the mother’s case post-verdict.

Shortly after taking the case, Riordan filed a motion requesting either an acquittal of Jo’s conviction or a new trial, arguing the jurors were given improper instructions on the definition of “malice” and thus failed to consider Jo’s state of mind when she fled for Korea with Hwi. The motion was denied.

In a press conference after the April 28 sentencing, Riordan said he plans to file an appeal.

“Judge Rosenberg issued a thoughtful sentence that, under other circumstances, can be considered fair and just. But he’s dead wrong on this case,” the attorney said. “This conviction will be reversed.”

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Featured image courtesy of Cynthia Fong of the #StandWithNanHui Organizing Committee. 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jo illegally reentered the U.S. in 2014. In fact, Jo entered the country on a short-term tourist visa. The previous version also stated that Jo’s ex-husband served a one-year prison term for domestic violence. In fact, there is no indication that he served prison time. Finally, a previous sentence stating that “Charlton was told to stay away from Jo” had incorrect attribution and has been updated to reflect that Charlton was asked to leave by police and come back later, per the court transcript. KoreAm regrets the errors.

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Foreign Spouses Must Pass a Korean Language Exam to Immigrate into South Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Last February, South Korea passed an amendment that requires foreign spouses of Korean nationals to have a basic proficiency in the Korean language as a condition of entry. However, the revised law has stirred much protest, as more than 1,000 foreign spouses have been barred from immigrating into the country because they are unable to pass the government-issued Korean language exam.

Since there is a scarcity of marriageable women in rural areas in Korea, the new immigration law mainly affects farmers who have enlisted the help of international marriage brokers to find brides from overseas, primarily from Southeast Asia.

On March 27, a Korean man in his 60s set a matchmaking agency on fire after his Vietnamese wife failed the basic Korean language test and was denied entry into South Korea. The fire killed one of the company’s representatives.

One farmer in his 40s, whose Cambodian wife failed the exam after the two had already married in her home country, told SBS, “It’s a difficult situation that you have to pass an exam in order to come into the country. My wife in Cambodia also feels this way and I miss her a lot.”

The South Korean government initially created the amendment in response to the high number of domestic violence cases involving international couples, many of which were a result of communication problems. The government also cited the high divorce rate of international marriages, which is now set at 10,000 divorces per year.

Matchmaking agencies have filed complaints to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. One agency spokesman said that the law is harmful as it forces husbands who have already registered their marriage to “give up their partnership with their wives.”

Among online comments, some have said that the amended law is fair, claiming that communication is key to a healthy marriage. Others expressed concerns over how spouses from western countries, such as the United States and England, would fare on the language exam.

One of the top comments on Naver read: “I agree with this law because a marriage isn’t a product to buy and sell. If foreign spouses enter Korea and do not have a basic understanding of the Korean language, it would be difficult for them to adapt to Korea. It would be good if Korean citizenship is given to them if they’ve lived in Korea for over five years.”

Another commenter wrote, “In America, foreign spouses must meet language proficiency requirements, and also understand basic American laws and history. Needless to say, this is the right policy.”

Meanwhile, the South Korean government has announced that it has no plans to revise the law.

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Featured image via chrissantosra.wordpress.com

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#KeepAdamHome Sparks a Dialogue on the Deportation of Adult Adoptees

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

The pending deportation of Adam Thomas Crapser, an undocumented Korean American adoptee and survivor of severe child abuse, has sparked a dialogue on a major loophole in immigration law, according to NBC News.

When Adam first arrived in the U.S. in 1979 as a Korean adoptee, his childhood quickly turned into a nightmare. He and his biological sister were adopted by the Wright family in Michigan, where he suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In 1986, the Wrights relinquished their parental rights to Child Services without completing Adam’s naturalization paperwork. As wards of the state, Adam and his sister became separated from each other. After living in a group home for a year, Adam was formally adopted by Thomas and Dolly-Jean Crapser in Oregon.

The Crapsers, along with their biological sons, subjected Adam and seven other foster children to years of heinous abuse and torture. In an interview with Gazillion Strong, Adam revealed that he would get choked, beaten or burnt on a daily basis during the five years he lived with his abusive adoptive family. In 1991, the Crapsers were arrested and convicted of multiple counts of child abuse, child sexual abuse and child rape.

Adam, now a husband and father of three children, faces possible deportation because both sets of adoptive parents failed to complete his naturalization process and refused to provide him with his adoption papers, according to the blog Reappropriate. As an undocumented American, Adam has struggled to attend school or find work for most of his adult life. If deported, he will be sent to a country where he does not even speak the language.

Immigration activists are now advocating for an amendment to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA). While CCA grants automatic citizenship to all children under the age of 18 legally adopted outside of the U.S., the act does not have a grandfather clause. This means that adult adoptees who were 18 at the time the act went into effect remain undocumented and unprotected from deportation.

The CCA amendment was previously applied to the Senate’s immigration bill in 2013 and had strong support from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, since the immigration bill failed to pass, the proposed CCA amendment has been abandoned.

If the amendment is reintroduced and passed, then Adam as well as hundreds of other undocumented international adoptees who were born before 1983 can receive retroactive citizenship.

“America signed a bill to bring us over from Korea in a military action,” Adam told Gazillion Voices. “They promised us a better life over here. All I’m asking is to keep their promise and do what they said they’d do. And if not for me, then for my children.”

Advocacy group 18MillionRising has launched the social media campaign #KeepAdamHome to raise awareness for Adam’s case. A petition is also being circulated online to help stop his deportation.

Adam’s deportation hearing is scheduled for April 2, 2015.

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Featured image via 18MillionRising

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Feds Arrest Leaders of Alleged Student Visa Fraud Ring in L.A.

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Federal authorities arrested three Los Angeles-area residents Wednesday for allegedly running a “pay-to-stay” visa scam that enabled foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. by using student visas without actually attending school. The scam netted as much as $6 million a year from tuition fees, reports the Associated Press. 

Hee Sun Shim, 51, of Beverly Hills; Hyung Chan Moon, 39; and Eun Young Choi, 35, were arrested on a 21-count indictment, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

The sham vocational schools apparently tapped into L.A. neighborhoods with a growing Asian immigration population, according to the L.A. Times. Shim operated three schools—Prodee University, Walter Jay M.D. Institute and the American College of Forensic Studies—in Koreatown, and one school, the Likie Fashion and Technology College, in Alhambra. Shim’s employees Moon and Choi allegedly assisted with the schools’ operation and management. 

Authorities said students from South Korea, China and other countries would pay up to $1,800 to enroll in one of the schools for six months in exchange for fraudulent papers, such as transcripts and attendance records, that would make the students eligible for an F-1 visa. If a student needed to stay “enrolled” for longer periods of time, Shim would then transfer the student to another school to avoid arousing suspicion. 

Federal authorities began their investigation in 2011 after inspectors made an unannounced visit to Prodee’s main campus in Wilshire Boulevard and found only three students in an English-language class, although records showed that the school had more than a thousand students enrolled. 

“We had students who were hundreds, thousands of miles away,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Los Angeles. “There was absolutely no education going on at the school.”

Authorities said they plan to withdraw each school’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification.

Shin, Moon and Choi face conspiracy and immigration fraud charges. Shim is also charged with two counts of money laundering and three counts of encouraging illegal residence, according to authorities. All three indicted operators are scheduled to appear in court later today.

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Featured image by Emily Berl/Wall Street Journal

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Nan-hui Jo Convicted of Abducting Her 6-year-old Daughter

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Nan-hui Jo, a single mother who fled to South Korea with her American-born daughter in hopes of escaping physical and emotional abuse inflicted by her former partner and child’s father, Jesse Charlton, was found guilty of child abduction on Tuesday.

Judge David Rosenberg has delayed the sentencing until April 1 to review the decision, according to the Sacramento Bee. However, Jo’s conviction could result in her deportation and Charlton maintaining full custody of their daughter Vitz Da, also known as Hwi, who is now 6 years old.

Charlton, who served as a machine-gunner for two tours in Mosul, Iraq, has admitted that he suffers from traumatic brain injuries and severe PTSD and has been determined to be 70 percent disabled by the Veterans Affairs Department. While he has never been arrested for domestic violence, Charlton has testified in court that he once grabbed Jo by the throat and threw her against a wall.

After her student visa expired in 2009, Jo took her daughter from Sacramento to South Korea without notifying her partner. While Jo cared for Hwi in her home country, Charlton emailed her threats of hiring a bounty hunter and filed charges against her for child abduction. Thus, when Jo landed in Hawaii last July to look for schools for her daughter, she was immediately arrested and sent to Yolo County jail, where she remained incarcerated since December.

It is unclear when Jo will be reunited with her daughter again.

Over the past several months, Jo’s case has been closely followed by Asian American, domestic violence and immigration advocates, who have rallied support with the #StandWithNanHui social media campaign.

“We are very disappointed and saddened to hear that the jury decided to convict Nan-Hui Jo today,” Hyejin Shim of Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse (KACEDA) told NBC News. “However, we know that when it comes to the criminal legal system, it is very common for survivors of domestic violence to be criminalized and blamed, not supported. What happened today is precisely why so many survivors fear our justice systems.”

Despite the guilty verdict, advocates will be organizing a rally on Thursday, March 5 at the San Francisco office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A new petition is also currently being circulated on social media, urging people to call and demand ICE and CBP to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to drop Nan-Hui’s case.

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Featured image by Dillon Sung via KACEDA

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Panel: Low DACA Application Rate Among Asian Americans

Pictured above: Attorney Bea Pangilinan, Juhee Kwon, Lilian Galedo, and Sheryl Munoz-Bergman (from left to right) spoke to journalists and activists as panelists for Friday’s roundtable discussion. (Photo courtesy of Seung Y. Lee)

by SEUNG Y. LEE

More than 30 lawyers, journalists, and citizen activists gathered for a roundtable talk Friday at New America Medias San Francisco office to discuss the low application rate among Korean and Filipino American communities for consideration under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA.

Since 2012, more than 550,000 undocumented immigrants have received DACAs benefits and protectionincluding 68 percent of eligible immigrants from Mexicobut only a small number of eligible Asian Americans have applied for the program, according to New America Media (NAM), a coalition of ethnic media which hosted Fridays roundtable.

According to the multiethnic news agency, only 24 percent of eligible Korean immigrants and 26 percent of eligible Filipino immigrants across the United States have applied for DACA since it began.

When I heard [these numbers], my first impression was that this study was wrong,said Sandy Close, executive director of NAM and host of the discussion. What can we, as the media, do to break the sound barrier?

DACA was implemented in June 2012 by the Obama administration to allow certain undocumented immigrants—those who came to the United States before they turned 16, and were under age 31 as of June 15, 2012— to receive protection from removal action up to a period of two years, and also receive work authorization.

In November, the program was expanded to include immigrants who entered the country before 2010 (from the previous 2007), while it eliminated the age cap for eligible applicants and lengthened the renewable deferral period to three years, from two. (A Feb. 16 federal court order, however, has temporarily put that expansion on hold.)

In attendance Friday were representatives from various legal and community organizations within the Korean American and Filipino American communities, along with three DACA recipientstwo of whom are Koreanswho shared how DACA changed their lives for the better.

DACArecipientsMiguel Sales, Bill Song, and Ju Hong, three DACA recipients, share their life stories before and after applying for DACA. (Photo courtesy of Seung Y. Lee)

One of those speakers was Bill Song. He shared his story of learning how he could not apply to the colleges he dreamt of attending after finding out during his senior year of high school that he was an undocumented immigrant. His family hid the fact out of shame, he saida theme that repeatedly arose during the discussion, especially among the Korean Americansand expressed skepticism when Song told them he planned to apply for DACA.

“‘Just stay low from the governmentwas the overall stance from the community,Song said. Im safe now, but thats just how the Korean American community feels still.

Ju Hong, a UC Berkeley alumnus who made national news when he interrupted President Obamas speech at an immigration rally in San Francisco in 2013, spoke about how he was able to visit South Korea for the first time in 13 years thanks to DACA. Hong now works as an outreach coordinator for the National AAPI DACA Collaborative where he helps eligible Asian Americans apply for DACA.

Discussion also turned to the Feb. 16 order by a federal judge in Texas which blocked an expansion of DACA, including an initiative known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which would extend the programs benefits to undocumented immigrant parents.

Lawyers in attendance Friday repeatedly noted that the injunction does not mean DACA is being shut down.

We consider this a temporary setback,Asian Law Alliance attorney Bea Pangilinan said.Were confident the courts will push through.

The lawyers also warned possible applicants to watch out for unauthorized practitioners looking to take financial advantage of interested applicants by asking for a lawyers retainer fee. Several immigrant organizations, such as the Korean Community Center of the East Bay (KCEEB), provide consultation for DACA applications for free, the panelists noted.

Yet, as the personal stories on Friday reflected, for many eligible Korean American or Filipino Americans who choose not to apply for DACA, financial constraints arent always their biggest worry. Social pressure to fit into the “model immigrant” mold and a relatively weak political activism and partnership with the government perpetuate a culture of silence among Asian American communities, said Juhee Kwon, a program associate at the Oakland-based KCCEB.

Kwon said that many Korean Americans tend to associate undocumented immigrants as persons primarily from Latin America, and stigmatize fellow Koreans who may face the same predicament. Additionally, some of the major social hubs for immigrantsparticularly churches and religious groupsfoster a feeling of shame for undocumented immigrants, she said.

“A lot of rhetoric in the Korean American society on the issue is one of a culture of shame and silence,” Kwon said. “Asian communities try to distance themselves from the Latino immigrant communities, and it isolates the undocumented inside their own.”

Although there are well over 8,000 undocumented Korean immigrants living in the Bay Area, according to a 2013 survey by the University of Southern California, Kwon said she has met church leaders who claim there are no undocumented immigrants in their churches.

The lack of vocal support within their communities has amplified fear for many undocumented Asian Americans and largely prevented them from seeking relief under DACA or other forms of government amnesty that can improve their livelihoods in the U.S., the panelists said.

We in the Asian American community have not been vocal about undocumented people,said Lilian Galedo, executive director for the Oakland-based Filipino Advocates for Justice. They think Asian American communities wont have their backs.

Also touched on in Friday’s panel were suggestions on how Asian American media can expand its coverage of DACA. Activists and lawyers on Friday recommended that media mention legal resources in articles and write in Korean and Tagalog, as well as in English, to reach larger audiences.

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President Obama Extends Lunar New Year Greetings

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

President Obama recently expressed his best wishes to all Americans celebrating Lunar New Year this year.

In the video message, Obama recalled growing up in Hawaii and seeing the Lunar New Year celebrations, including “parades, fireworks and gatherings.” He praised the holiday as the perfect reminder of the many unique traditions, perspectives and cultural backgrounds that make America a “melting pot.”

He also stressed the importance of immigration reform, stating that Americans should work together to pass an immigration bill that can “expand opportunities for more people to study, and serve, and contribute to our nation.”

You can watch Obama’s 2015 Lunar New Year greeting below:

This year marks the Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat. You can learn more about this zodiac animal’s characteristics in our previous Lunar New Year post.

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Sponsored Post: NAKASEC’s Support Your Community in the New Year

In 2014, NAKASEC and our affiliates, KRC in Los Angeles and Orange County and KRCC in Chicago, provided vital services to tens of thousands, trained and developed new leaders, organized our community to fix today’s broken immigration system as well as speak out against police brutality and other injustices, and turned out our community to vote. As we look back on our work last year, we would like to thank our incredible supporters, volunteers, partners, and community members who make the work we do possible.

A key achievement is supporting our community to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since 2012, nearly 8,000 undocumented Korean Americans have successfully applied and receive temporary relief from deportation and work authorization. South Korea is currently among one of the top five countries with the highest DACA application rates. NAKASEC, KRC, and KRCC have been integral to making sure that Korean Americans are informed and participate in the program. Over the past two years, our three organizations successfully processed more than 1,300 applications and provided one-on-one, email, and phone consultations to nearly 10,000 undocumented community members.

Among those we assisted is Sanghyun,* a 19-year-old Korean American college freshman in Los Angeles, California. After his father passed away, Sanghyun was raised by a single mother who works as a homecare worker. When DACA was announced in 2012, he was unable to apply due to the high application fee and his family’s financial situation. But with financial support and application assistance from KRC, Sanghyun became a DACA recipient this past June. He is now able to pay his way through school and support his family. Stories like Sanghyun’s are not uncommon in our community. And they continue to remind us why we must ensure that every eligible community member benefits from DACA.

On November 20, President Obama announced his executive actions on immigration — an expansion of DACA and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), a new program offering undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and Lawful Permanent Resident children relief from deportation and work authorization. In addition to the 30,000 undocumented Korean Americans currently eligible for DACA, just over 48,000 Korean Americans are estimated to be newly eligible for relief.

With many more community members now eligible for relief, NAKASEC hopes to serve as many community members as possible by getting the word out, creating culturally competent materials, responding to inquiries, and providing legal services as soon as applications are made available.

But we need your support to make this possible. We ask you to make a difference by donating to NAKASEC today. It costs at least $250 for us to completely process one application. By donating $10, $25, $50, $100, or more at bit.ly/donate94, your support will have a direct impact on the lives of our community members. And for the next few months, your contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar! Thank you for a memorable year and for inspiring us every day to work towards winning true reform and justice in our communities.

*Name has been changed to protect his privacy.

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National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, INC. (NAKASEC)

NAKASEC seeks to empower the Korean American community through education and advocacy. NAKASEC was founded in 1994 by five Korean American community organizations located across the U.S. Its program areas include education, civil rights and immigrant rights advocacy, civic participation, research, leadership, coalition-building and culture. NAKASEC programs focus on serving those with less resources and access, such as women, youth, seniors, low-income residents and recent immigrants.

NATIONAL OFFICE
2846 W. 8th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
t: (323) 937-3703
f: (323) 937-3753
www.nakasec.org
nakasec@nakasec.org

Virginia office
7006 Evergreen Court, Suite 200
Annandale, VA 22003
t: (703) 256-2208
f: (703) 256-2558

KRC Orange County Office
6301 Beach Blvd., Suite 211
Buena Park, CA 90621

Korean American Resource &
Cultural Center (KRCC)
2701A W. Peterson Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659
t: (773) 506-9158
f: (773) 506-9159
www.chicagokrcc.org

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