Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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LAAPFF Features Korean and Korean American Films

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

The 31st Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) will be showcasing a wide variety of indie films, documentaries and short films created by Asian and Asian American filmmakers. The festival will run from April 23 through April 30, 2015 at several theaters in Little Tokyo, Koreatown and West Hollywood—just in time for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Here are the feature-length Korean and Korean American films that will be screened at this year’s LAAPFF. The following list does not include short films.

Cat Funeral

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Director: Lee Jong-hoon

Cast: Kang-in (from K-pop group Super Junior), Park Se-young, Park Se-young, Jung Gyu-woon, Hong Wan-pyo, Kim Byeong-choon

Based on a webtoon of the same name, The Cat Funeral tells the story of an indie musician and a cartoonist reuniting a year after breaking up over the death of the cat they owned together. The couple embark on an overnight trip to hold a funeral for their beloved pet.

Changing Season

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Director: Jim Choi

Cast: David “Mas” Masumoto, Nikiko Masumoto

Set in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Changing Season chronicles the transitional year of famed farmer David “Mas” Masumoto and his relationship with his queer daughter Nikiko, who returns to her family’s peach farm to take the reins from her father. The documentary explores the process of handing over a family farm from one generation to the next as well as the changing dynamics within the Japanese American community.

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)

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Director: Josh Kim

Cast: Toni Rakkaen, Ingkarat Damrongsakkul, Thira Chutikul, Arthur Navarat, Natarat Lakha, Kowit Wattanakul

After both of his parents die in the poor outlying districts of Bangkok, 11-year-old Oat faces an uncertain future when his older brother, Ek, must apply to Thailand’s annual military draft lottery. In order to buy his older brother out of the army, Oat steals money from a local mafia boss, only to endure traumatic consequences.

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) was screened at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

Top Spin 

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Director: Mina T. Son, Sara Newens

Cast: Lily Zhang, Ariel Hsing, Michael Landers

Top Spin chronicles the journey of three American teen athletes who aspire to make the 2012 Olympic table tennis team. The film made its world premiere at DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary film festival.

Ktown Cowboys

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Director: Daniel “DPD” Park

Cast: Danny Cho (screenwriter), Shane Yoon, Bobby Choy, Peter Jae, Sunn Wee, Simon Rhee, Daniel Dae Kim, Eric Roberts, Steven Byrne

Based on a popular web series of the same name, Ktown Cowboys is a bromantic comedy that follows a group of Korean American friends who band together in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and struggle with transitioning into adulthood.

Ktown Cowboys premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival.

I Have Seen My Last Born 

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Director: Lee Isaac Chung, Samuel Gray Anderson

I Have Seen My Last Born is a documentary about Rwanda, a sovereign state in central and east Africa, transitioning from its violent history towards development. The story is told through the perspective of a villager who juggles the roles of father and son.

The film’s co-director, Lee Isaac Chung, is a renowned Korean American filmmaker, whose debut feature Munyurangabo was screened at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

Man Up

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Director: Justin Chon

Cast: Kevin Wu, Justin Chon, Dion Basco, Gerry Bednob, Nichole Bloom, Parvesh Cheena, Samantha Futerman, Amy Hill, Galadriel Stineman

Martin, a 19-year-old slacker, gets kicked out of his house after his tiger mother discovers that he got his Mormon girlfriend pregnant. Martin then moves in with his stoner best friend, Randall, who vows to turn him into a good father.

Twinsters

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Director: Samantha Futerman, Ryan Miyamoto

Cast: Samantha Futerman, Anaïs Bordier

Documentary Twinsters follows the story of actress Samantha Futerman and budding fashion designer Anaïs Bordier, twin sisters separated at birth and adopted by American and French families. Through the power of social media, the sisters discover their existence for the fist time and reunite after 25 years of separation.

Advantageous

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Director: Jennifer Phang

Cast: Jacqueline Kim (screenwriter), James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Kim

In a near-future dystopian city where women are pressured to quit the workforce in order to make room for men, Gwen, a gifted corporate spokesperson, must decide whether to undergo a radical medical procedure to save her job and pave a better future for her daughter.

Advantageous premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

To learn more about the LAAPFF, visit their website and official Facebook page

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All images via LAAPFF

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Chol Soo Lee Day of Remembrance Draws Intimate Crowd in L.A.

Back row, left to right: Warren Furutani, Charlie Park, K.W. Lee, Tom Byun, Jai Lee Wong, Greg Murakami, Mike Suzuki, Kent Wong, Duncan Lee; first row, left to right: Grace and Luke Kim, Gary Eto. (Photo by Charlie Kaijo)

by JULIE HA | julie@iamkoream.com

How did they do it?

How did Asian Americans in the 1970s and early ’80s, with little political clout let alone a collective identity and presence, create a large-scale movement to free a lowly Korean immigrant named Chol Soo Lee who was wrongfully convicted of murder? How were they able to get traditional-minded Korean halmeonis and churchgoers working alongside progressive, third-generation Japanese American activists to raise awareness about the case and money for Lee’s defense? How were they able to sustain that movement for more than six years, until they were able to win Lee’s freedom from death row?

There’s a mythical quality to the Chol Soo Lee case, which predated the more widely known Vincent Chin incident in 1982 as the first-ever pan-Asian American social justice movement. That’s partly because the case flies under the radar even among Asian American studies scholars, and it’s also because this vision of an organized, collective movement of Asian Americans to help a convicted murderer sounds so far-fetched.

At the Chol Soo Lee Day of Remembrance event this past Saturday in downtown Los Angeles, the individuals directly involved in what became a national and international movement to free Lee turned out in the flesh. Many who got involved as college-aged youth are today well into their 50s, their salt-and-pepper hair bearing evidence of time passed, with their mentor figures in the movement now in their 60s through 80s.

IMG_2075Grace Kim and K.W. Lee pose in front of Chol Soo Lee’s timeline (Photo by Jimmy Lee)

There was an almost festive, reunion-like atmosphere to the event, as many had not seen each other in months or years, and they embraced, recounted old memories and playfully ribbed each other. “I learned a lot of Korean words,” said a smiling Gary Eto, who is Japanese American, recalling the days he spent working with Korean American friends on the Free Chol Soo Lee movement. “Mostly bad ones,” he added, laughing.

Most of those present on Saturday were not able to attend a memorial service held in Northern California shortly after Lee’s passing last December at age 62. This weekend’s event was held to give Lee’s Los Angeles-based supporters a chance to reflect on a man who made a profound impact on their lives, said Do Kim, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney who spearheaded the Day of Remembrance, along with his nonprofit K.W. Lee Center for Leadership. (Kim named the center after the Korean American journalist whose investigation into the Chol Soo Lee case was instrumental in uncovering evidence that would lead to Lee’s acquittal. K.W. Lee, who turns 87 this year, flew in from Sacramento to attend the event.)

Addressing an intimate crowd of about 40 people who gathered at the L.A. offices of the nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Kim said he had an explanation as to how the unlikely Chol Soo Lee movement became a reality. “It’s because the people on the [Chol Soo Lee] Defense Committee were amazing people,” he said. “This is why they were able to do it.”

And they defeated incredible odds. Chol Soo Lee, an immigrant from South Korea who came to the U.S. at age 12, was arrested by San Francisco police in June 1973 for the murder of Yip Yee Tak, a local Chinatown gang leader, who was shot dead in broad daylight. Though he had maintained his innocence throughout, Lee, then 20, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison a year later.

K.W. learned about Chol Soo when the latter was on death row—the result of him being convicted of a second murder, after he killed a neo-Nazi inmate during a prison yard brawl in which Chol Soo claimed self-defense. After a six-month-long investigation, K.W. would write a series of stories about Chol Soo that raised troubling questions about the Chinatown murder conviction. Chol Soo, who was 5-foot-4 if that, was much shorter than eyewitness descriptions of the gunman and had a mustache that not a single witness mentioned to police. Notably, Lee was often misidentified as Chinese during his trial.

K.W.’s articles would help spark the Free Chol Soo Lee Movement, which brought together a diverse group of supporters that spanned across different races, ethnicities, religion and politics.

Jai Lee Wong, who attended Saturday’s event along with about a dozen other members of the movement, recalled the journalist’s first articles on the case. A young community activist at the time, she said Chol Soo’s story as the immigrant child of a single mother lost in a foreign land resonated with her.

She recalled the time she drove all night with two other individuals—Japanese American community activist Warren Furutani, with whom she was working at a center serving at-risk Asian American youth at the time, and a street-wise Korean American teen named Charlie Park—to reach the Deuel Vocational Institution, the Northern California prison where Chol Soo was incarcerated. They waited in their car until the prison opened for visitors in the morning, and met Chol Soo in person. As he chain-smoked his Marlboro reds, he told them he was innocent of the 1973 Chinatown murder for which he was convicted.

“We believed him,” said Wong.

16900965235_60a2a9bc12_oJai Lee Wong (Photo by Charlie Kaijo)

The three would play active roles in the Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee, as groups formed across the country with the common goal of winning Lee’s freedom. “We were young, fearless and perhaps a little crazy,” Wong recalled.

Despite the initial doubts and distrust of some members of the Korean American community, who assumed if Lee was convicted, he must be guilty, the Defense Committee members were “relentless” in their outreach and education efforts, said Wong. They held bake sales, car washes and dance parties to raise funds to hire the best defense attorneys for Lee.

It was the first time many in the immigrant Korean community had worked closely with Japanese Americans, noted Wong.

The movement yielded a whole generation of conscientious public interest lawyers, activists and elected officials, she added.

Indeed, several of those individuals present Saturday talked about how the case changed their career plans.

“Chol Soo Lee really screwed me up,” said Duncan Lee, a Korean American who grew up in Los Angeles. He said he was a pre-med student at UCLA, like a “good, Asian kid” when his friend Charlie Park called him up and told him about the Chol Soo case. Park, who commanded a certain respect and authority among his friends, told Duncan to sing at an upcoming benefit concert for the Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee. Duncan did as told and, from then on, he also started attending Defense Committee meetings.

The case would turn Duncan’s life around. He did not go to medical school, as planned, but instead was inspired to become a lawyer and would, years later, work on the Vincent Chin federal court case along with many others from the Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee.

“Chol Soo’s case gave me a purpose,” said Greg Murakami, also a UCLA undergraduate at the time. He was a straight-A student who would never think to question authority, he said, but when friends told him about the Chol Soo Lee case, it opened his eyes to a whole new world. “There was all this justice, a lot of things going on that weren’t right,” he said. Murakami, who initially thought he would become a lawyer, instead pursued community advocacy work, and has been involved in drug abuse prevention and human relations work throughout his career.

Many former Defense Committee members remembered Chol Soo for being kind, compassionate and incredibly strong both mentally and physically (“He made Bruce Lee look like a wimp,” remarked Gary Eto), but he also had a darker side fueled by his past in a kill-or-be-killed environment for 10 years—during the prime years of his life. He spent many of his days of freedom feeling lonely and depressed, with no real chance for rehabilitation and a normal life. “Mostly good came from this movement,” said Eto. “But the main thing was, this was a travesty and it ruined a man’s life.”

On that note, those gathered reminded each other that the work isn’t over yet. There are pressing criminal justice issues today that affect all people of color, including Asian Americans. “[Chol Soo] is telling us, ‘Please do not stop your work,” said Grace Kim, an 83-year-old community activist who, with husband Luke Kim, used to hold Defense Committee meetings in her Davis, Calif., living room. “Still, you have to work hard for social justice and fairness and equality for all.”

Do Kim said part of the mission of this Day of Remembrance was also to look ahead, so people could “recommit” themselves to that pressing work. He introduced to the crowd some young men who are working on anti-recidivism, resentencing issues and support for formerly incarcerated Asian Americans. One of those men, Paul Jung, a staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said he was thankful for the example of the “trailblazers” in the room and added that he and others were ready to “continue the work” they started.

Clutching a book that Chol Soo Lee had signed before he passed, Jung said, “If anybody wants to get plugged in and come alongside, then we’re here.”

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Recommended Reading:

Free, Free Chol Soo Lee

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Link Attack: Roy Choi in Watts; Dogs Rescued From Meat Farm; Custom Emoji Keyboard

Video: Roy Choi Wants the Next Food Revolution to Start in Watts

The first location will be in Watts at a site that used to be smoke shop and a barbershop. Choi says that his team wanted to open a location somewhere in South Los Angeles, and they ended up focusing on Watts because of the sense of community they found there. (LAist)

Dogs Rescued from South Korean Meat Farm Brought to San Francisco

Thirteen frightened young dogs and puppies arrived in San Francisco in a van Thursday, some trembling, tails between their legs, others with sad but hopeful eyes, and all of them unaware of how close they came to an agonizing, gruesome death. (SF Gate)

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Memoji Keyboard Allows You To Emojify Yourself

Johnny Lin, an ex-Apple engineer, created a way for users to upload their own faces as emoji. Angry Asian Man Phil Yu tries it out.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is Doing Shockingly Well in South Korea

Why is the movie such a huge hit in the South Korean film market? Cinema Blend speculates the reasons, from the visuals to the high fashion costume design to director Matthew Vaughn’s popularity in South Korea.

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23 Most Anticipated Korean Films of 2015

Modern Korean Cinema lists the Korean films they’re most looking forward to this year.

Homebrew and House Parties: How North Koreans Have Fun

“Despite restrictions on money and free time, partying is integral to North Korean culture. But how does it compare to cutting loose in the South?” writes The Guardian.

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Korean Star Jung Ho Kang May Be Much Better Than Advertised

“In so many words, clubs just didn’t see many reasons to be optimistic about Kang,” writes Bleacher Report. “But as early as it is, one wonders how many are thinking differently these days.”

Searing Complaint Against Korean Church

The Contra Costa Korean Presbyterian Church is being sued for negligence in their hiring of a youth pastor, who the plaintiff claims repeatedly sexually molester her and her sister.

Shinhan Bank President Cho Yong-byoung Pledges to Solidify Status as Leading Bank

In his inauguration speech on March 18, Shinhan Bank President Cho Yong-byoung emphasized, “I will solidify our status as a leading bank.”

Cho said, “Through ceaseless innovation, we must create new opportunities and values and maintain the highest level of profitability and soundness.”

GM Canada Gets New General Counsel and Assistant GC, Peter Cho

It won’t be Cho’s first time behind the wheel of an automotive law department. He was most recently general counsel, corporate secretary and head of government relations at Volkswagen Group Canada, and has also has worked with Volkswagen Group China and Kia Canada.

Olympic Gateway

K-Town Landmarks Hope to Begin Summer Construction

The Olympic Gateway, a long-projected landmark for Los Angeles’ Koreatown, as well as the Madang project at Da Wool Jung, are expected to begin construction as soon as mid-May.

Korean Calligraphy Exhibition Open at Chicago Korean Cultural Center

On display are about 70 works by students of Kit-beol Village Calligrapher Lee Chul-woo. (Korea Times)

Four Korean American Officers Join Fairfax County Police Department After Graduating Academy

Arthur Cho, John Hong, Seung Meang and Shane Oh were among the 60 new police officers and deputies who graduated from the academy. This is the first time in the history of the department that an academy class had this many Korean-American graduates. (Centreville Independent)

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UC President Apologizes for Calling Student Protests Over Tuition ‘Crap’

Pictured above: University of California Berkeley student Kristian Kim throws fake money while starting a protest during a UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

University of California President Janet Napolitano issued a public apology yesterday for describing a student protest as “crap” during a regents meeting on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“I’m sorry for using a word I don’t usually use,” Napolitano said at Thursday’s regents meeting at UC San Francisco. She admitted to using an “unfortunate” choice of words, but she also asked for “empathy and understanding” in what led to the remark.

Kristian Kim (pictured above) was one of about 30 student protesters in the meeting who, during the public comment period, began yelling and stripping down to their underwear and exercise clothing, revealing the words “Student Debt” written on their bodies. It was during the yelling that Napolitano leaned over regents chairman Bruce Varner and said, “Let’s just break. Let’s go, let’s go. We don’t have to listen to this crap.”

Her microphone caught the words, which were discernible on the UC’s live video stream of the meeting. Napolitano and the regents left the room, followed by the protesters after a warning from the police. No arrests were made, and the regents resumed the meeting.

Needless to say, the remark definitely didn’t sit well with the students.

“It’s an insult to have her as the president of UC,” Kim told CBS News. “I don’t know where she’s coming from, but I’m assuming she’s never had to deal with these issues personally. So I can understand why there would be a disconnect there.”

One of the more pressing issues students were protesting was the proposal for a 5 percent tuition increase every year for the next five years. Napolitano and California Governor Jerry Brown have gone back and forth on possible tuition hikes: The governor has proposed increasing state revenue for UC by $120 million, or 4 percent, next year, but only if tuition remains frozen for a fourth consecutive year, according to the L.A. Times. Napolitano maintained that the UC needs $100 million more than Brown’s proposal to cover costs, such as pensions and salaries; otherwise, the 5 percent hike would be necessary.

So far, the regents have authorized Napolitano to increase undergraduate tuition for California residents by as much as $612 in 2015-16, to $12,804, which does not include room, board and individual campus fees. If the 5 percent hikes kick in over the next five years, California undergrads could be paying $15,564 by 2019-20.

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Albert Kong Sees His Younger Self in ‘Seoul Searching’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

There’s perfect casting, and then there’s too perfect casting. Actor Albert Kong was not particularly thrilled when his fellow cast members in Seoul Searching would tell him that he was just like his character, Mike Lee–a mean, bullying, racist military student.

“I hope I’m the opposite of my character,” Kong said. “Everyone at the beginning was telling me, ‘Oh you’re so Mike.’ And I didn’t know how to take that, you know what I mean? In the movie, that’s not a good thing.”

“By the end [of filming], they were saying, ‘Oh you’re so not Mike,'” he added. “I took that away as a point of comfort. I don’t know, I think it’s hard for me to differentiate, because when (director) Benson Lee did the casting, he did such an amazing job. All the actors he pulled in, they were from all over the place, they had all these unique backgrounds, and they really put that into the character and melded it so well.”

As for his own character, Kong looked to his own experience growing up in an area where there weren’t too many other kids who looked like him. “I could speak for myself, I was an idiot in high school,” Kong said. “I think everyone humbled themselves and drew from that.”

This interview has been edited for length, grammar and clarity.

SAMSUNG CSCMike Lee (Albert Kong) looks even more surly and angry next to the bright personality of Sergio Kim (Esteban Ahn).

What did you first think of Mike?

Albert Kong: (Laughs) To be honest, the first time I read Mike’s lines, he was really abrasive, right from the get-go. He’s such an angry guy. At a first glance, I think it’s really easy to just write him off as one of those people. But to me, it’s always interesting to unpack people like that.

Generally, someone like that comes from a place with a lot of pain and hurt, you know? For me as an actor to try and flesh out an otherwise really flat character, it was definitely fun. Benson and the production team allowed me the flexibility to do that.

What characteristics of Mike did you really wanted to focus on?

I just really wanted to flesh him out. This movie as a whole has so many different types of characters. It’s unique in that aspect, this huge melting pot of a bunch of different people, and it’s very reminiscent of high school with all the different cliques and character types.

The biggest thing I’m hoping that people take away from it is that even though Mike does come off as the antagonistic character and a bully, [he’s doing that] just to create that sense of sympathy for him to a certain degree. I think it goes both ways. Everybody deserves a fair shake. It’s not to justify the way he behaves by any means, but if I could just get people to consider, “Oh, this is where someone like this could be coming from,” then I’d feel like I did his character justice.

What aspects of your background did you draw from to create your character?

I was born in Los Angeles, and then my parents moved when I was young to Valencia, a suburb area where it’s predominantly Caucasians.

What I was able to draw for my character was that sense of not belonging, the sense of constantly having to prove yourself. Because there were no other Asians where I was. It was a very small Asian population. That was back when people didn’t even know what Korea was.

Obviously, you look physically different. The food you bring to school is different. Everything is so different, and that sense of trying to fit inI actually got in trouble when I was younger for being a bully. I don’t remember this, but apparently my mom would get calls from other kids’ moms. But I remember having the feeling that I had to fight for everything. I really did have that chip on my shoulder. And by God’s grace, as I matured, that eased over.

SAMSUNG CSCFrom left to right: Sergio Kim (Esteban Ahn), Sue-Jin Kim (Byul Kang), Mike Lee (Albert Kong), Sid Park (Justin Chon) and Klaus Kim (Teo Yoo).

What were some of the themes in the movie that stuck out to you or personally connected with you?

I think the most universal theme that anyone can relate with, whether they’re Korean American or not, is just this sense of finding identity. Time period-wise, it’s set in the ’80s, but it’s a high school class. I think everyone remembers, especially in high school, college and even as a young adult, trying to find that sense of who you areyour place in the world.

I think that’s what resonated with me the most because you see all the insecurity. It really takes me back. Just remembering that place where you think you’re cool, but you’re not sure and you’re just trying to find your place, you know? And then meeting people in that journey who help shape and help you to realize who you really are as an individual. I think that theme of finding yourself and coming of age, it’s something that’s going to resonate with a lot of people.

How was it working with Benson as a director?

Benson is a man with a lot of vision. It was an honor to support him and just to be a part of this project, because for him, this really is a passion project. He’s been working on this film for such a long time, and to see it all come together and be along for the ride, it was an absolute pleasure.

Working with the actors, he was really nice because he allowed a lot of opps for rehearsal and exploration. I think that’s what’s really going to carry in the final product and what people see. Even just the chemistry between the actors, on set and off set, that was only able to be cultivated because Benson really helped create an environment where we could really do that.

What was it like being with the cast for that long?

I’m sure that this is an analogy that’s brought up often, but being in an ensemble cast, it was really like family. There were times when people had little scuffs here and there, but that was just close proximity, being there for long hours and traveling all the time. It was really good; it was fun. We would find little ways to keep ourselves amused.

If one of us was down, everyone would all kind of rally. All in all, it was awesome. Everyone was hustling, everyone knew what they were doing, what we were trying to make. Weather and cows aside, it was good.

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Barack Obama and Kim Jong-un Impersonators Take on Los Angeles

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

President Obama was in Los Angeles yesterday, creating a traffic nightmare for commuters. News sources said he was making a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, then attending a fundraising dinner. They were wrong. Kind of.

Photographers Jamie Fullerton and John Chappie were able to capture two of perhaps the most convincing celebrity impersonators hitting the streets of Los Angeles, according to VICE. The photos, which depicted two people impersonating President Obama and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, quickly made their way up to the Reddit front page.

The two leaders seemed to have had a blast in L.A. Obama gave Kim some tips on his much maligned hairdo before visiting the Hollywood sign and Sony Pictures (no hard feelings over The Interview, perhaps?), then hitting up Venice Beach to shoot hoops (move over, Dennis Rodman) and skateboarding. And of course, a day out in SoCal wouldn’t be complete without a Double-Double from In-N-Out.

The cherry on top would have been Katy Perry blasting on the car stereo.

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Happy Friday the 13th, folks!

Images via Imgur

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Los Angeles County Declares ‘Susan Ahn Cuddy Day’

On Jan. 16, Susan Ahn Cuddy, a Korean American living legend who was the first Asian American woman to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, turned 100. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County honored the Los Angeles-born trailblazer and patriot by declaring March 10, 2015 “Susan Ahn Cuddy Day.”

For those unfamiliar with her biography, Cuddy was a warrior who shattered race and gender stereotypes during an era when women, let alone Asian American women, serving in the U.S. military was rare. During World War II, the petite 4’11 dynamo was the first female gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy who trained fighter pilots in air combat tactics and shooting down enemy planes. Following the war, Cuddy joined the Navy’s elite code-breaking team, rising to the rank of lieutenant. She later became a civilian officer for the National Security Agency, leading a department of 300 tasked with gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“These were all firsts as an Asian American woman in a man’s world. Anti-Asian sentiment was brazenly prevalent but that didn’t deter Susan Ahn Cuddy—she just knew what her mission was,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during Tuesday’s ceremony, attended by Cuddy, daughter Christine Cuddy, grandson Michael Gittes, son Philip Cuddy, caregiver Daisy Flores and friends and family. Ridley-Thomas introduced the motion to declare March 10, 2015 “Susan Ahn Cuddy Day,” and it was unanimously approved by the five-member board of supervisors, the governing body of the County of Los Angeles. Tuesday’s date was selected since it is the 77th anniversary of the death of Cuddy’s father, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, the renowned Korean independence movement leader.

In her personal life, Cuddy was also a pioneer who defied existing barriers to interracial marriage. In 1947, she married fellow NSA codebreaker Frank Cuddy. Because the Korean-Irish couple could not obtain a marriage license in Virginia due to the state’s interracial marriage ban, they wed at a Navy chapel in Washington, D.C.

Cuddy is one of four children and the eldest daughter of Ahn Chang Ho and Helen Ahn, who were the first married couple to immigrate from Korea to the United States. Cuddy’s brother, Philip Ahn, was the first Asian American actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In an 2009 interview with KoreAm, Cuddy said, “I never had a feeling I was denied anything on a personal basis; it was the particular time of life. I think as far as racism is concerned, it’s how you [respond to] it and go on with your life.”

Check out KoreAm‘s tribute to Susan Ahn Cuddy’s remarkable 100-year-long history here.

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Featured image courtesy of Christina Villacorte

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L.A. City Council Candidates: How They Fared

by SUEVON LEE | @suevlee
suevon@iamkoream.com

One thing about the Los Angeles City Council race for District 4 is clear: There will be a runoff election, since no candidate in the crowded 14-person race received more than 50 percent of the vote. What’s less clear is who will be advancing to the May 19 election.

Based on Tuesday’s primary election results, the top two finishers in Council District 4 were Carolyn Ramsay and David Ryu, also the district’s top fundraisers. But trailing very close behind Ryu is Tomas O’Grady. With mail-in ballots still left to be counted, it’s still very much a toss-up.

The uncertainty should be resolved on or before March 24, since the Los Angeles City Charter allows 21 days from the date of the primary to certify official election results. Only the top two finishers in the race head to the run-off election.

For now, Ryu’s goal to become the first Asian American city council member in Los Angeles since Michael Woo left office in 1993 is still buoyant. In a statement to the media Wednesday, the Korean American candidate thanked his supporters while urging their patience in the days ahead.

“There are still votes being counted and I will not consider myself to be in the runoff until every single neighborhood voice has been heard and all of the votes are counted,” Ryu said. “I will not declare that I am in the runoff until all the votes are counted and all the neighborhood voices are heard.”

Among all of Tuesday’s municipal races—seven City Council seats, plus four school board member seats, four L.A. Community College District Board of Trustees’ seats plus two charter amendments—the District 4 race is the only one heading to a runoff. District Four includes the area of Central L.A. and parts of the San Fernando Valley.

Based on results tabulated late Tuesday by the City Clerk’s Office, Ramsay, a former aide to termed-out Councilman Tom LaBonge, received 2,911 votes, or 15.3 percent of the vote. Ryu received 2,776 votes, or 14.6 percent of the vote. Following closely behind was nonprofit director O’Grady, who trailed by just 61 votes, with 2,715 votes, or 14.29 percent of the vote.

According to City Clerk media specialist Julio Esperias, there are still 46,412 mail-in ballots left to be tabulated for all of Tuesday’s races combined.

All in all, Tuesday’s primaries featured a dismal voter turnout, at 8.6 percent. That’s half of what it was four years ago, according to the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps that could change in the near future: L.A. residents who did turn out Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in support of two charter amendments that will move future city and school board elections to even-numbered years to coincide with state and federal elections.

Whoever wins the Council District 4 runoff race will fill the seat starting July 1 for a five-and-a-half-year term.

Ryu, a UCLA economics grad who raised more than $400,000 in an impressive showing for a first-time political candidate, is the director of a Los Angeles nonprofit health care provider. He has said he would like the City Council to be more “representative” and give more of a voice to the “voiceless…one of those being Asian American[s].”

“I’m not looking to represent just one group,” he told the USC Annenberg Media Center blog, Neon Tommy.

Meanwhile, the only other Korean American candidate in this year’s City Council races, Grace Yoo, lost in her bid Tuesday to unseat City Council President Herb Wesson in the race for District 10, which includes a chunk of Koreatown.

Although she faced a considerable uphill battle to unseat the political veteran, Yoo managed to receive 29.5 percent of the vote in the 10th district, with 3,266 votes. Wesson received 7,022 votes, or 63.5 percent of the vote.

In a statement emailed to her supporters Wednesday, Yoo said her campaign was a “grassroots, underdog campaign from day one.”

“The Yoo campaign was fueled by people power, not big money special interests, and we can be proud of running a positive campaign with integrity,” she said, thanking her volunteers. “Despite last night’s results, I remain committed to fighting for the Koreatown community and for true diversity on the Los Angeles City Council.”

Yoo, an attorney and former executive director of the Korean American Coalition, has told KoreAm that the fight to challenge L.A.’s 2012 redistricting–a cause that goaded her into this race–is not over. After Tuesday’s election, Yoo only had congratulatory remarks for her opponent, who oversaw the mapmaking process.

You can see her tweet to Wesson below:

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Featured image via Benjamin Dunn/Twitter

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