History and Impact of KAC by Delegate Mark Keam
Delegate Mark Keam urged Korean Americans to engage in civic life and work together to make government serve our needs. Although there are successful Korean Americans in all industries, their success has been mostly at the individual level and has not always helped the rest of the community. Our immigrant parents have worked hard and built businesses, but all too often, they behaved as if the country did not belong to us, telling us to not do strange things because we are foreigners here. KAC is a civic organization founded in 1983 to advance the claim that we are just as American as other people. When the Russians shot down a Korean Airlines flight in 1983, KAC was one of the few voices that spoke up for the 300 innocent victims who lost their lives. During the 1992 LA Riots, KAC stood up to the mainstream media that sought to pit us against other racial minority groups. When the Environmental Protection Agency targeted dry cleaners owned by Korean Americans that used the same practices as other dry cleaners, KAC lobbied against unfair regulatory burdens. Today, Korean Americans must speak up and share our story to counteract white supremacists who believe in their narrow view of America. Moreover, our voice can promote the peaceful reunification of the two Koreas. We have a special role in preventing another war-torn conflict on the Korean peninsula and in making sure there's not one bullet shot because of ideology. Delegate Keam highlighted the importance of a strong, robust KAC where the members are organized, educated, and empowered.
Korean American Identity and Historical Consciousness
Professor Edward Chang
Professor Edward Chang motivated Korean Americans to learn history, as it is a source of identity and power. History illustrates what it means to be a Korean American and why we should care about our community, as exemplified by the life of Young Oak Kim. Young Oak Kim grew up in the Korean American community in southern California in the early 1900's. During World War II, when he joined the U.S. Army, Young Oak was assigned as Second Lieutenant to the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion, comprised mostly of Japanese Americans. At that time, Korea was fighting for independence from Japan, and fearing a potential conflict, his superior officer gave Young Oak the option of serving in a battalion without Japanese Americans. Young Oak replied, "We are all Americans and we're fighting for the same cause." As an officer of the 100th Infantry Battalion, he led efforts to rescue Rome, Belvedere, and Pisa. He successfully helped liberate these cities from German occupation. When his military career ended, he founded several non-profits in southern California, including KAC, the Japanese American National Museum, a Korean American museum, a shelter for battered women, and a Japanese American veterans’ association. While seeing himself as 100-percent American and 100-percent Korean, Young Oak devoted his life to the betterment of humanity. Professor Chang also described how knowing history can help Korean Americans today to build multi-racial coalitions. Both African American and Korean American communities have a shared background of oppression and suffering and are mostly Christian. These commonalities can help us communicate with each other and build trust.
Additional lectures and other videos mentioned by Professor Chang can be found here.
Women in Leadership Ms. Mari Watanabe
Ms. Mari Watanabe advised Asian Pacific Islander (API) women on how to attain leadership positions. Although APIs are projected to represent 10% of the population by 2050 in the U.S., and 46% of women say they want to make it to the top of their profession, API women are significantly underrepresented as executives. They hold just 0.2% of CEO positions and less than 1% of board seats in S&P 100 companies. To improve these statistics, women can do the following: 1) Find mentors who emulate their values and principles. Then, follow the mentors' advice, even if it means getting out of their comfort zones. Mentors should not be the boss or someone else in the company. 2) Network and build partnerships with professionals of diverse backgrounds. 3) Become a board member. Women can volunteer for positions and don't have to be asked. 4) Achieve Professional Development. Opportunities for training are available through Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Center for API Women, EDI - Executive Development Institute, and Toast Masters. 5) Apply for positions even when they don't meet all of the requirements. Ms. Watanabe described how although women usually do not give themselves enough credit. Women are just as capable as men in leading. When women become leaders, they encourage girls, who see people that look like them in positions of authority and power.