In a bi-monthly series of posts, we will spotlight different Korean-American cities, selected not only for their numbers, but also for their visibility in mainstream America. Our research was guided by the following criteria: population, famous and/or influential locals, programs, and hotspots.
First of all, thank you readers for the huge success of our Top 5 Most Korean-American Cities series! After reading your comments and listening to your feedback, we decided to bring it back by featuring a city that some claimed should have made the original cut. First up, D.C!
As our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. is looked upon as a center hub for Americans of all ethnicities, but the D.C. Metro area is quickly becoming a staple among the Korean population specifically. With more and more Koreans settling in neighborhoods like Annandale, Fairfax and Centerville, Washington D.C. is the perfect city to kick off the return of our KA Cities series!
85,291 – D.C. metro area (population data compiled using the 2010 Census)
Born to the first Asian American professors of Yale University, the Koh brothers both depict the same work ethic instilled in them by their parents. Harold Koh, former dean of Yale Law School, is now the Legal Adviser of the Department of State. Howard Koh is also working with the federal government as Assistant Secretary for Health. Additionally, the two are renowned scholars and writers garnering an abundance of titles and awards over the course of their accomplished careers thus far.
In 2007, Michelle Rhee was offered the role of chancellor of D.C. public schools. Upon accepting the job, she vehemently began reforming evident flaws drawing both praise and criticism before resigning in 2010. Shortly after her departure, Michelle founded StudentsFirst, a D.C.-based organization aiming to reform the education system by promoting and rewarding good teachers and “to defend the interests of children in public education.”
Annabel Park (left), Becky Lee (right)
Having studied political theory at Oxford University with the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, Annabel Park went on to direct several projects, one of which was the award-winning documentary about immigration policy, 9500 Liberty. More recently, Annabel is the founder and president of Coffee Party USA, a growing political movement originally created as an alternative to the Tea Party movement. Coffee Party USA shares the idea that active participation and civil dialogue with elected officials is a necessity for a properly functioning governmental system. Follow Annabel on Twitter.
Becky Lee has done much more since her national appearance on Survivor: Cook Islands. With a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Becky continued on to create Becky’s Fund—an important tool in the fight against domestic violence with countless resources pertaining to the cause.
The Korean Heritage Foundation was instrumental in opening the Korea Gallery at the Smithsonian
Founded in 1985, the Korean Heritage Foundation (KHS), is a non-profit organization that hosts many cultural events throughout the year and educates the public about Korea’s rich munhwa. Notably, KHS established the Korean Heritage Fund at the Smithsonian Institute, and has helped bring rare collections of ancient Korean artifacts to the Smithsonian, eventually playing an instrumental role in the opening of the Korea Gallery.
Sebastian Wang plays the janggu, a traditional Korean drum, outside of the KORUS House.
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Washington D.C. opened KORUS House as a communication hub that facilitates an open discussion of issues related to the US and Korea. Open to the public every weekday, KORUS House acts as a venue for art exhibits, cultural performances, and lectures which include topics such as North Korea’s nuclear weapon programs and a proposed extension of the visa waiver program for Koreans.
Korean Focus Metro DC advocates on behalf of adoptees and adoptive families, raising awareness about important issues that affect the Korean adoption and Korean American communities. With other chapters in Cincinnati, Seattle, and Indiana, Korean Focus is a fast-growing organization that uses its website, blog, eBulletin, Facebook, and Twitter to address the needs of those “living the Korean adoption experience.”
The Brunch Plate at Mandu
Not only does Mandu live up to its namesake with delicious dumplings, its happy hour is unrivaled ($3 beers and $4 sojutinis in flavors like aloe, yogurt, and mango all before 7pm). Mandu even offers brunch—a Korean spin on steak & eggs—which includes kimbap, a Korean omelet, chive pancakes, Korean-style hash browns, and a choice of bulgogi, chicken, pork, or vegetables and tofu.
One of the few 24 hour Korean joints in the area, Yechon gives generous portions of anything that you might be craving at 3am whether it be sushi, KBBQ, or any other traditional Korean dish. Yechon was even featured on WETA’s Neighborhood Eats as a must try!
Mickey, a.k.a. “Ms. Honey Pig,” owner of Honey Pig in Annandale, VA, a local favorite
After eating Honey Pig, check out Dain Café & Karaoke right next door. Taking up a space of 5000+ sq. ft, Dain Café is a 21+ NRB, meaning—yes!—a full bar right as you walk in.
Rooftop Pursuit (Jason Yi, Philip Lee, Paul Frankie Lee)
Rooftop Pursuit, a diverse pop/r&b/rock band, has been performing with Kollaboration and other events in recent years. Appearing at this year‘s Kollaboration New York 6, the group didn’t place first as they had in another Kollaboration competition, but came out with a solid show nonetheless. Their EP album is available on their website from various sources.
Mark Keam, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2009, is also a former aide on Capitol Hill as well an executive with Verizon Communications. Having been an immigrant himself, Mr. Keam sponsored a bill to raise the ESL teacher to student ratio among VA schools.
Virginia native, Lyricks (Rick Lee), is a rapper and producer looking to bring the hip-hop scene to his area. Having toured internationally and recorded on over 300 tracks, he is no beginner to the rap industry. Lyricks also runs his own recording studio, Suprnova, and plans to release his next album early in 2012.
Eugenia Kim (left), Dana Tai Soon Burgess (right)
D.C. local Eugenia Kim‘s riveting debut novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter—which was inspired by her mother’s heroic life—was shortlisted for the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She currently teaches fiction at Fairfield University’s MFA Creative Writing Program. You can follow Eugenia on Twitter.
Practicing dance and choreography beginning in his teen years, Dana Tai Soon Burgess is now a master of his craft with his own program, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company. His critically-acclaimed expertise has earned him commission from prolific organizations (Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, the U.N., and more), countless awards, and a position as American Cultural Specialist in the U.S. Department of State. Dana’s new work, “Becoming American,” an adoption story told through dance, has received rave reviews, with The Washington Postcalling Dana “the best dancemaker around.”
Justin Ahn and Melissah Yang contributed to this post. Special thanks to Elliot Lee, co-founder and co-director of Kollaboration DC!
Have a city you’d like to see featured? Get in touch and give us some inside tips.
Just because it’s 2010, it doesn’t mean our top ten countdown ended for most influential Korean-Americans of 2009. Please excuse us for the past week’s hiatus as the whole staff was out west escaping the arctic weather, but we’re back and so is our countdown. Obama becoming the first minority President of the United States was not only symbolic but it also caused ripples across the political spectrum. Obama’s entry into the White House will undoubtedly stir up ambitions for Korean-Americans and minorities to pursue politics and that’s why we’ve chosen to group Eugene Kang and the Koh Brothers as the second most influential Korean-Americans of 2009. They are the face of the changing political spectrum for Koreans and though they may not actually be in elected positions, they are influential nonetheless, more than we may know. Eugene Kang is a special projects coordinator and direct assistant to President Obama and when you’re with the “prez” every day and have access to him, you’re going to be doing some influencing. How many of you have a direct line to Obama? Not many people out there do. Eugene also represents the influence of youth in an arena where gray hairs have ruled politics.
We’ve also grouped the Koh brothers, Harold and Howard, with Eugene and their influence. They may be two of the most powerful brothers in America, this according to the Wall Street Journal. Harold is the former dean of Yale Law School who is now the top lawyer at the state department which means he will be very influential in how the U.S. interprets international law. Harold’s brother Howard is currently the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health for the Department of Health and Human Services and advises the administration on healthcare policies and practices for the country, and we all know about the heated debates over healthcare reform. There are other Korean-Americans who should be named in this grouping, but these three are the faces of today’s politics and they are all in positions to influence policy and law. More importantly, they’re blazing a path for other Korean-Americans to consider a life in politics.
Who’s the latest power siblings to storm Washington D.C.? Harold Koh and Howard Koh just took up residence in the District of Columbia last month and they are paving the way for more Korean-Americans into politics. In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, there was a feature on the Koh brothers and their rise to prominence. Harold Koh, former dean of Yale Law School and now top lawyer at the State Department, and Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, both were confirmed by the Senate late last month.
Their’s is a simple but common story that we all know very well: Korean-American immigrant family instilling a work ethic and a super strong focus on education. They are truly living the American dream; they just happened to have an earlier start than most Korean-Americans. Their story is symbollic of the stories that Korean Beacon tries to share and it makes the staff here even more excited about Korean Beacon. We are finally at a point in time where there are so many Korean-Americans who are really emerging and making a difference in the U.S. Why now? It’s because there’s a whole generation of Korean-Americans who have been educated or have made investments in themselves and we’re seeing the fruits of that labor. What’s amazing is that we find a story of a Korean-American who is doing something very interesting almost every single day, and we know we’re missing a whole lot of other stories.
The Koh brothers are symbollic of the many Korean-American lives out there. Their parents arrived in the United States when they were very young. Through diligence and perseverance, they focused on education as a a path to something greater, but with this understanding from their parents:
“I guess like any immigrant parents they wanted their kids to succeed in this new country,” says Howard Koh, 57 years old, who was previously a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. His parents’ mantra, he says, was, “It’s one thing to get a great education and do well in school, but it’s not important if you can’t ultimately use it to help other people.”
The Koh’s are paving a way for more Korean-Americans into politics. There are others like Sam Yoon who’s running for Boston mayor; PJ Kim and Kevin Kim running for council seats in New York; and Eugene Kang who’s in the inner circle of President Obama. There are many more Korean-Americans who are trying to make inroads into politics, and it’s exciting for all of us to see them try and succeed. This is another story of the American dream.
Harold Koh is now the highest ranking Korean-American in the U.S. government. Harold Koh is currently the dean of Yale Law School, but after last week’s 62-35 vote in the senate, Mr. Koh will be stepping aside at Yale to step into his new post at the State Department. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more brilliant mind of the law than Harold Koh. However, Mr. Koh isn’t the closest to President Obama – that distinction goes to twentysomething Eugene Kang, the President’s assistant. Eugene Kang did play golf with the President this past weekend.
Who’s the most powerful Korean-American family in U.S. politics today? The person closest to President Obama is Eugene Kang, but the most powerful Korean-American family is the Koh brothers: Meet Harold and Howard Koh.
Howard Koh was recently nominatd to be assistant health secretary for the Dept. of Health and Human Services, and he’s the brother of another Obama nominee: Harold Hongju Koh, the nominee to be the top lawer for the State Department. Harold has also been mentioned most recently as a possible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court, which would make him the very first Asian-American to be nominated for the highest judicial seat in the land. I’m sure there’s also some sibling rivalry because Harold is the dean of Yale Law School and Howard is the director of the Harvard School of Public Health.
They are two of six children and we can only imagine what the other four kids are doing. They were born of Korean immigrants who’s parents were the first Asian professors at Yale. I guess you can say that they stressed education in that household. Hopefully both will get through the nomination process.
I opened up the New York Post today and there’s an interesting article about the latest buzz on Obama’s potential nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. The only potential male nominee for the highest court appears to be Harold Koh; however, it looks like he’s up against 5 other woman. Like I said before, why not nominate an Asian female. For now, let’s chant “Let’s go Koh! Let’s go Koh! Let’s go Koh!” Check out the NY Post>
U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, 69, is planing to retire at the end of the court’s current term. You know what that means: the rare opportunity to have the first Asian-American to sit on the highest court in the land. The first name that shoots up to top of the Asian-American nominee list is Harold Koh – who is of Korean descent – and someone who is generally considered a possible front runner overall. However, early speculation is that President Barack Obama is leaning towards nominating a woman. It’s way to early to speculate who has the edge but I’m hoping that the president will further diversify the U.S. Supreme Court. So far he’s done a pretty good job of including more Asian-Americans in his administration but the biggest statement of diversity could be the nomination of an Asian American; I hope it’s an Asian-American woman! If not, go Harold Koh! Chant with me….. “Let’s go Koh! Let’s go Koh! Let’s go Koh!”
Who is Harold Hongju Koh? State Dept. Legal Adviser (nominee)
Born 1954. Korean-American heritage may be a plus for President Obama seeking to put first Asian-American on the bench. A Yale law school professor and dean, pending his new government appointment. Worked as a human rights lawyer in Clinton State Department. Former clerk for Justice Blackmun.
The Chosun Ilbo makes note of how many Korean-Americans have influenced President Obama. Here’s a quick roster of influential Korean Americans in the Obama administration:
Eugene Kang – Special Assistant to President Obama – holder of his calender. The only one aboard Air Force One who is of Korean descent and also named one of President Obama’s 52 most trusted people according to the New York Times.
Harold Hongju Koh – Dean of Yale Law School and soon to be top legal adviser to the state department. Also speculated to be a possible Supreme Court nominee – could be the first official Asian-American nominee.
Michelle Rhee – Chancellor of the DC public school system who is subtly referenced by President Obama for her radical reforms.
Other peeps in the administration: Christopher Kang, Elizabeth Kim, Helen Hong, Anna Kim
Another Korean-American enters the Obama ranks. Harold Hongju Koh was named top lawyer for the State Department. Koh is the dean of Yale Law School. He has been an outspoken advocate of human rights and a strong critic of former President Bush’s approach to the detention and trial of terrorism suspects.
A Korean American and native of Boston, Koh has been the subject of speculation in legal circles that the Obama administration might tap him as the first Asian American Supreme Court justice. Read>