Tag Archives: politics

eeoc jenny yang pic

President Obama Appoints Jenny R. Yang EEOC Chair


Jenny R. Yang was sworn in today as the Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), making her the first Asian American chair of the EEOC. Yang, whose term expires July 1, 2017, was nominated by President Obama and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 2013.

“It is an honor and privilege to have been named by President Obama to serve as Chair of the EEOC,” Chair Yang said. “Our outgoing Chair, Jacqueline Berrien, has left an extraordinary legacy. I look forward to building upon that foundation with my fellow Commissioners, our General Counsel, and all of our dedicated and talented staff.”

Yang previously served as Vice Chair of the EEOC since April 2014 and led a comprehensive review of the agency’s program, which addresses issues regarding alleged discrimination that have broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic region. She also represented EEOC on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“Fifty years ago, this nation made a fundamental promise to its people to assure equality of opportunity at work,” Chair Yang said. “Congress created the EEOC to make good on this promise — to lead the nation in enforcing our anti-discrimination laws and to champion equal employment opportunity in workplaces across America.  It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility to serve this remarkable agency in fulfilling this promise to our nation.”

Yang is a longtime, experienced civil rights and employment lawyer. Prior to joining the EEOC, Yang was a partner at Cohen Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC, where she represented thousands of employees across the country in numerous complex civil rights and employment actions. She also served as chair of the firm’s hiring and diversity committee. From 1998 to 2003, Yang was a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section, where she enforced federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment by state and local government employers.

Yang received her B.A. from Cornell University in government and her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a note and comment editor of the law review and Root-Tilden Public Interest Scholar. She and her husband, Kil Huh, director of the States’ Fiscal Health Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, have two sons.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about Chair Yang and the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

Photo via SDCBA.

Sunha Paul Kim

Student Spotlight: Harvard University’s Sunha Paul Kim

Give a little description of your background (where did you grow up, etc.).
I was born and raised in the South Bay area of L.A., but I have also lived in Ohio and New England. I am grateful to have lived in all three places because I have gained greater insight with regards to my cultural identity. It really wasn’t until I moved to Ohio that I realized I was, as a Korean American, different from the majority of this country. Even though I spent most of my life in California, I like to say that I really grew up in Ohio, because I definitely experienced a profound cultural awakening which enabled me to gain a truer sense of what it means to be an American in Ohio.

Are there any organizations/clubs you are involved in? Tell us about what you’re up to!
I helped establish a Harvard based religious grassroots movement and Super PAC called Stand For Democracy that is currently aiming to repeal gambling laws in Massachusetts. Repealing gambling laws is important for me because gambling is such a large problem for Korean Americans and Asian Americans in general. It is also something that has directly affected my family and I am sure that my family is not the only one. Also, a win in November’s election would mark the first time in American history that a state has ever overturned gambling laws. Repealing gambling laws in Massachusetts would be a watershed moment in American history.

Our organization has been responsible for getting the Muslims, Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews to work together all throughout Massachusetts in order to overturn this state’s gambling laws. We have also assembled a team of world class advisors from Harvard’s faculty (including the professor who created President Obama’s successful grassroots campaign in 2008) who are helping us grow this movement. Currently, we are working on raising close to $2 Million from all over the country to take on the casino industry this November. You can check out our website at StandForDemocracy.com and even donate a few dollars to support our cause.

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What was the hardest thing you’ve done so far?
Helping to start a grassroots movement to fight a $50,000,000 political machine funded by multiple casino corporations is by far the hardest thing I have done and am currently working on. It’s a David vs. Goliath struggle, but with the right tools, David sometimes wins.

What’s the best thing about your school?
Having incredible role models. There aren’t too many schools where one can have dinner with the former President of Mexico, work with gubernatorial candidates, and take classes with million book selling authors and one of the European Union’s top economic advisors. Of course, this is a double-edged sword because it this is how some people lose touch with reality.

What song is representative of your life right now?
“Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley.

I think Bob Marley is too often written off for having merely written stoner hymns. While there is nothing wrong with this perception, people too often miss the powerful and profound message of Marley’s work.

Your go-to food place:
When in LA: Kogi. I am a huge fan of chef Roy Choi because he simply makes a damn good taco. I also believe that Chef Roy has created a new type of food: Korean American Food. My advisor at Harvard, Professor David Carrasco, teaches about the cultural exchanges that particularly take place in large cities. Whether Chef Roy knows it or not, Kogi’s food signifies a Korean-Mexican cultural exchange that has given rise to a new Korean-American-Mexican culture that could only have originated in Los Angeles. I write a lot about Roy Choi’s work in my classes and I know he’d be welcome anytime to speak at Harvard.

When in Boston: Bon Me. I love food trucks. There is a food truck that parks in front of Harvard Yard almost every day and sells Miso Braised Pulled Pork foot long sandwiches for $6. Bon Me takes cultural exchange to another level. Think about it. Vietnamese sandwiches (Bon Me) were first created in Vietnam during French colonial times. So here we at least have Vietnamese, French, Japanese (Miso), and American (good old pulled pork) culinary influences coming into play with one sandwich. It’s pure magic.

Is there anywhere in the world where you’d want to study abroad? Where is it, and why?
Supporting Manchester City Football Club has given me a window into the socio-political dynamics of everyday life in Manchester, England. City fans are generally hard working blue collar people who have historically supported an awful soccer team for many fascinating reasons. Most of Manchester supports City even though Manchester United is obviously the bigger global club. Imagine if Los Angeles, in the midst of the Shaq-Kobe dynasty, was mostly Clipper fans. I admire City fans for their loyalty to Manchester City and it would be incredible to have a chance to live and study in Manchester and to learn more about the incredibly interesting people there. It would also go a long way towards getting people to stop calling me a glory hunting wanker.


What does your typical night out consist of?
I don’t get many of these, so it’s important to take the most out of a night out. A typical night out is all about going out to Boston, going to the clubs, and taking trip to rage city. I never drink cheap alcohol and you shouldn’t either. It might certainly mean drinking less often but that’s the smart thing to do anyways.

What was the last book you read…for fun?
The Martyred by Richard E. Kim.

My grandfather died earlier this year and I never spoke to him about how he fought in the Korean War or how he moved his family across an ocean to re-start life. Richard E. Kim and my grandfather are similar in very specific ways. Kim was born in 1932 and my grandfather was born in 1931, which means they were 21 and 22 when the Korean War broke out. This means that out of all the Korean soldiers that fought in the Korean War, Kim and my grandfather were only one of a relative few that actually dropped out of university and sacrificed their education to fight in a war. Of course, afterwards both Kim and my grandfather came to America. I viewed Kim’s book as perhaps the only window I had to look into what Korean Americans of my grandfather’s generation were thinking about the Korean War. That’s why this book was, for me, a wonderful read.

What has been your favorite memory so far?
Organizing and witnessing Muslims, Jews, and Christians pray together in public for greater good has been my most moving and favorite memory so far.


If you would like to participate in KoreAm U’s Student Spotlight feature, you can find more information here. Alumni, we have something for you too!

Rexon Ryu-FP 2008

Rexon Ryu Named Defense Secretary Hagel’s New Chief of Staff

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has tapped Rexon Ryu to be his next chief of staff, replacing the outgoing Mark Lippert who was appointed U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Foreign Policy has reported.

Ryu formerly worked as a foreign policy adviser to Hagel when the latter served as a U.S. senator, and observers say it’s not surprising he was named to be the Defense Secretary’s right-hand man. He is said to mesh well with Hagel’s leadership style, according to John Lettieri, who was formerly Ryu’s Senate deputy, the FP article said. “He’s one of the few people who can hit the ground running in this position,” Lettieri told the publication.

In a statement to FP, Hagel said Ryu “is a proven talent when it comes to working with the interagency, Congress, and outside groups and he will be a tremendous asset to the Defense Department. [I] have long relied on [Ryu’s] counsel and wise perspective on national security matters.”

Ryu leaves his position as a deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and is reportedly already starting his transition to the new Pentagon post this week. Waiting for him will be a sizable list of pressing security issues, including ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), Ukraine and Syria, according to the Foreign Policy article.

The Korean American has had plenty of experience in foreign policy and national security issues. Ryu formerly served as a special assistant to former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and the Washington Post called him a “confidant” to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. As a former assistant to National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Ryu one one of a handful of directors who worked on nonproliferation issues at the National Security Council, with a specific focus on Iran and Syria.

When he was on Hagel’s Senate staff, the then-Nebraska lawmaker credited Ryu with having “a good global assessment of reality and policy … and can talk simply, straightly, directly.”

Top photo: Rexon Ryu (left), from a 2008 picture. Photo via Foreign Policy.

Roy Cho

Election Roundup: Korean American Candidates Roy Cho and Young Kim Score Victories


A dozen Korean Americans were on Tuesday’s primary ballots, but only a handful emerged victorious from their respective races. Among the big winners were Democrat and first-time congressional candidate Roy Cho of New Jersey, who won an impressive 90 percent of the vote and will move on to the general election for the state’s 5th Congressional District; and California’s Republican State Assembly candidate Young Kim who will also advance to the November election.

More than half of the Korean Americans candidates were running for seats in California.

Here’s the roundup of how the candidates performed at the June 2 primaries.


Republican State Assembly candidate Young Kim is now a step closer to “kicking butt” as she famously declared last year, after garnering 54.7 percent of the vote to incumbent Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva’s 45.3. The historically conservative 65th District went to Quirk-Silva in 2012, which allowed the Democrats to gain the supermajority in the State Assembly.

In the 24th District of the State Senate, Peter Choi is headed to the general elections with fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon, after collecting 20.3 percent of the vote and finishing in the top two. Sam Kang (6.4%) also lost in his bid (31.1%) for a seat in the 15th District in the California Assembly, as did Mary Chung Hayashi (21%) in her 10th State Senate District race.

Meanwhile, Michelle Park Steel (46.6%) advanced to the general elections for the 2nd District seat for the Orange County Board of Supervisors seat. Carol Kim (31.05%) came in at second in the 6th District seat for the San Diego City Council and will face Chris Cate in the general election in November.

James Na was on the ballot even though he withdrew from the race for the 4th District seat on the San Bernadino County Board of Supervisors last February and still received 9.34 percent of the votes.

Three Korean Americans ran for Los Angeles County Superior Court judgeships this year. Prosecutor Ann H. Park ran unopposed and won her race. Criminal prosecutor Helen Kim (43.3 percent) lost to Alison M. Estrada (56.7 percent), while Songhai “Sunny” Armstead (47.65 percent) ran a closer race, but still lost to Teresa P. Magno (52.35 percent).

New Jersey

In the 5th District for Congress, Democrat Roy Cho of Hackensack garnered 90.4 percent of the vote which will send him to the general election in November, when he’ll face Republican Scott Garrett, the incumbent.


Rep. Rick Allen will face Democrat John J. Barrow in the general elections in November after Eugene Yu garnered only 16.5 percent of the vote.

(This story reflects corrections to the total number of candidates in the June 2 primaries. An earlier version stated the total number in all 2014 primaries, including those after June 2–that figure is 20. It also corrects the results for Peter Choi’s race.)

The original version of this story erroneously stated that Carol Kim lost to Chris Cate. We regret the error.


5 Facts to Know About SKorea’s Prime Minister Nominee

South Korean President Park Geun-hye nominated a new prime minister to replace Chung Hong-won, who recently resigned amid backlash following the poor handling of the ferry disaster.

Ahn Dai-hee, 59, a former prosector and Supreme Court justice who has been touted as reform-minded, was named to replace Chung, who will remain in the job until the parliamentary confirmation hearing for Ahn.

“I have lived all my life to eradicate irregularities and corruption … since I was a junior prosecutor,” Ahn said, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I take the nomination as an order to stamp out evils accumulated over decades and push for reform.”

Ahn must first pass next month’s confirmation hearing—a prospect that got shakier in the last few days, as opposition leaders criticized him for making about $1.5 million over six months last year as an attorney. The news prompted suspicions that he benefited from his status as a former Supreme Court justice.

“I think the nomination for prime minister should be reconsidered,” Rep. Kim Han-gil, a co-leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, told Yonhap on May 25.

Here is a list of five facts you should know about Ahn Dae-hee:

1. In 2003, then-prosecutor Ahn led a high-profile investigation of political parties that collected illegal funds ahead of the 2002 presidential election. The probe revealed that Grand National Party, the predecessor of the currently ruling Saenuri Party, had taken bribes from businesses to fund the campaign. The investigation earned Ahn the nickname, “the people’s prosecutor” and drew heavy criticism of the Grand National Party, which later reformed as the Saenuri Party.

2. His status as “the people’s prosecutor” prompted a legion of South Koreans to create an “Ahn Dae-hee fan club.” The fan club chairman Jeong Seong-keun, a farmer in Yeoju, said he created the group because he felt it was important to show support for “someone who works for the people.”

3. Ahn joined the party he once scrutinized as a prosecutor. He became head of the Saenuri Party’s political reform committee while it was struggling to regain public trust ahead of the president election in 2008, helping it return to power with the election of Lee Myung-bak. His role in reforming Saenuri Party once again helped Park Geun-hye become president last year.

4. Despite his qualifications, Ahn’s role will be limited as prime minister unless the president expands his role. Power is concentrated heavily on the president in South Korea, which analysts say leaves the prime minister with a more ceremonial role. During her presidential campaign, Park pledged to give the prime minster greater power, but former prime minister Chung Hong-won’s role proved no different than his predecessors. Will it be different this time around?

5. Ahn’s nomination hints at a Cabinet reshuffle in South Korea. Park plans to reorganize the Cabinet after Ahn takes office, according to her spokesman. Ministers criticized in connection with the ferry disaster and others who have been accused of corruption are expected to be replaced. South Korean presidents have traditionally revamped  the Cabinet to regain public trust and show they’ve acknowledged their mistakes. Park also sacked the spy chief Nam Jae-joon and the national security adviser Kim Jang-soo.


Asian Americans Shifted Most Strongly Toward Democrats Since 2000


Above photo: President Obama meets with Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) in May 2013 to discuss immigration reform.

Asian Americans have shifted most strongly toward the Democratic Party out of all racial or ethnic groups since 2000, according to a new report from Gallup released last Friday. Part of the reason may come from many Asian Americans affinity to President Obama, a fellow minority, but Gallup also attributes the shift to Asian Americans’ opposition to core tenets of the Republican Party.

The numbers from the past two presidential elections are a clear indicator of the shift. In 2008, 62 percent of Asian American voters backed Obama, and in 2012, 73 percent backed him for reelection, according to Edison Research exit poll data.

The two major issues the report identified as reasons for this political leaning: religion and immigration. A majority of Asians in the United States are non-Christian or not particularly religious, while the GOP has a core constituency of evangelical Christians.

The Republican Party’s resistance to changing immigration laws also may not sit well with the fastest growing immigrant group. Asians make up only 5 percent of the country’s population, but they recently surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the U.S.

Despite the growing numbers, polls that allow for deeper analysis of Asian American views are hard to come by because of the still relatively small population and language barriers. Gallup’s report included about 4,000 Asian Americans, and it did not conduct surveys in Asian languages—a fact that the research group acknowledged as a drawback to its data. Other research centers that do conduct surveys in Asian languages, however, have produced very similar results. A 2012 Pew Research Center report, which conducted its survey in seven Asian languages, found that 50 percent of Asian Americans identified with the Democratic Party, compared with 28 percent who identified with the Republican Party.

Photo via National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)


Peter Choi Makes His Bid for California’s 24th District State Senate Seat

The Non-Politician Candidate

Peter Choi, coming from a diverse background, makes his bid for California’s 24th District Senate seat.


Peter Choi is not a politician, and takes pride in that. A first-time candidate in the race for California’s 24th state Senate district, he believes that his lack of experience in politics is actually what makes him an ideal fit for a law-making body that seems to be making headlines these days for “all the wrong reasons,” as Choi says, referring to a spate of recent corruption scandals.

“We need to get someone up in Sacramento who understands what the will of the people is. That’s why I’m running,” said Choi, 53, currently the president and CEO of the Temple City Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve had a career in Hollywood. I’ve been a small business owner. I run a nonprofit. I will bring the totality of my life experiences to Sacramento. When I look at legislation, I don’t look at it through the eyes of my donors or special interest groups. I look at it through the eyes of someone who has lived a life.”

In the upcoming June primary, Choi faces fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon, the incumbent, in a bid to represent the 24th District, one of the most culturally diverse regions in the state and one that trends Democratic. It covers 9.5 percent of Los Angeles County, which includes Koreatown, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock and Westlake.

He has lived in Eagle Rock for about 20 years, but spent a good portion of his childhood in other countries, thanks to his father, a South Korean ambassador who helped establish the first Korean embassy in Washington, D.C. Choi attended elementary school in India, middle school in Egypt, high school in Morocco and later also lived briefly in Jamaica.

“It became very easy for me to meet new people because every three to five years, I had to reintroduce myself,” Choi said. “But I also understand that underneath our skin, accent and the food we eat, people are people. They want love, they want to connect. That’s what I bring to this district, the most diverse district. I get along with everybody.” Though he studied prelaw at Harvard, he joined the Directors Guild of America after graduating and worked on prominent film and TV projects, including The Karate Kid. After marrying, he and his wife Donna became small business owners, opening a boutique in the Silver Lake district of L.A. Choi also later worked for then-councilmember, now mayor, Eric Garcetti, in developing the Sunset Junction of Silver Lake into today’ s artsy and hipster neighborhood. He also served as the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce’ s chairman and the founding governing board member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council.

Choi believes his diverse back- ground has helped shape his progressive political ideology. An advocate of marriage equality and animal welfare, Choi is also a professed environmentalist and says that a major issue in the 24th District and L.A. is air quality and a clean environment. “One big issue that came up in this district is single-use plastic bags—those cheap, flimsy bags that end up in the river and trees, especially in low-income neighborhoods,” he said. “There was a statewide resolution to ban the plastic bags. That measure failed because of three votes, and one of those votes was by my opponent, Kevin De Leon. How can our senator vote against an issue that’s so important to us?”

De Leon said last November that he’s a supporter of banning plastic bags, but that abolishing them should be done “in a smarter way,” and that doing it suddenly, without a green alternative, would lead to loss of revenue and jobs.

Choi also said that one of his key motivations for running for state office is to restore a transparent government in Sacramento, at a time when recent corruption scandals involving three senators has damaged the legislature’ s reputation. Two state lawmakers, Ronald Calderon and Leland Yee, have been charged with corruption and bribery, while a third, Rod Wright, has been convicted of perjury and voter fraud. Though his opponent has not been charged with anything, Choi said that De Leon’s name appears “56 times in the FBI affidavit regarding the corruption investigation of Sen. Ron Calderon. This includes a lurid passage on page 92 indicating that De Leon allowed a legislative bill to die after ‘not receiving sufficient help’ in return for his backing.”

De Leon’s chief of staff, Dan Reeves called Choi’s accusation “character defamation,” saying that the senator was merely asked to testify in the investigation. “Just because his name gets mentioned with Ron Calderon, that doesn’t imply anything with regards to criminal behavior,” said Reeves. “[The FBI] sent Kevin a letter, saying that he’s simply a witness and that he wasn’t targeted in any way.”

De Leon already raised more than $257,000 in campaign funds, between January and March of this year, while Choi only raised $4,000 in that period. In other words, Choi’s bid is a longshot.

But Grace Yoo, executive director of the Korean American Coalition in Los Angeles, is backing the first-time candidate because she said “too often we find ourselves asking why people who would make great elected officials don’t run—you know, the folks that are smart, ethical and have common sense.

“Peter is that smart and ethical candidate,” she said. “[He’s] a policy wonk who knows issues and neighbor- hoods and individuals and is able to blend all of it together for the betterment of all.”



SKorean President Dismantles Coast Guard Over Ferry Disaster


South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced Monday that she will scrap the country’s coast guard as a “reform and a great transformation” after hundreds of teenagers died in a ferry disaster last month.

Speaking on national television, Park bowed and offered an apology for failing to prevent the ferry Sewol from capsizing on April 16 when hundred of students from South Korea’s Danwon High School died after getting trapped inside. Although 172 passengers were saved within hours after the ferry sank, 287 are confirmed dead and 17 are still missing in the waters.

Park, who shed tears towards the end of the nationally televised speech, said she will dismantle the coast guard for its inability to save more lives due to poor rescue operations, which led South Korea to suffer one of its worst peacetime disasters.

“The ultimate responsibility lies with me, the president,” Park said. “The coast guard failed to fulfill its duties. The number of casualties could have been greatly reduced had it been more assertive in responding.”

When the first coast guard boats arrived at the scene on April 16, the officers only saved the ferry’s captain and other crew members who had told the passengers to stay inside the tilted ship. Passengers who fled the ship on their own were also rescued. The officers were repeatedly told to reach the passengers trapped inside, but responded that the ferry was too heavily tilted for them to board it, according to the transcripts of coast guard radio communications released this past weekend.

Although Park promised to overhaul her government to help it improve its disaster prevention and management, critics are calling Park’s measure an attempt to blame the coast guard by diverting attention from her own regime. The opposing party, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, demanded further investigations into the government’s alleged failures.

South Korea’s central government officials are accused of failing to monitor the Korea Shipping Association, a lobby group, which approved the safety of Sewol, even though the officials overloaded the ferry with cargo that was poorly secured and lied about it in its departure report.

Founded in 1953, the South Korean coast guard has also been responsible for preventing Chinese fishing vessels from intruding the South Korean part of the maritime boundary. Some are also concerned that disbanding the coast guard could potentially increase drug smuggling from China and Southeast Asian countries due to weakened coastal protection.

Prior to Park’s controversial speech, the police detained more than 200 people who had tried to march into her office in a protest that demanded her to step down.

Photo courtesy of AFP