Korean Beacon

Washington D.C.

Korean-American Cities: Washington, D.C.

Posted on 04 November 2011 by Korean Beacon

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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.

Washington, D.C.

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)


Koh brothers, Michelle Rhee

  • 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, Becky LeeAnnabel 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 Fundan 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.
  • The Sejong Society of Washington, D.C. is a non-partisan organization that educates students and young professionals about U.S. foreign policy towards both North and South Korea. In partnership with the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) U.S.-Korea Institute, the Sejong Society stresses leadership skills, responsible ethics, and community service while informs the public about Korean culture, history, and society.
  • Korus HouseSebastian 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.”


Mandu, Brunch PlatterThe 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.
  • If you’re on the go, Yellow Vendor (a.k.a. Bulgogi Cart) is a great option to satisfy your Korean food cravings. We just featured YV in our Korean Food USA series last week, but we just can’t resist its huge combo plates of regular bulgogi and spicy bulgogi.
  • 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!
  • honey pigMickey, a.k.a. “Ms. Honey Pig,” owner of Honey Pig in Annandale, VA, a local favorite

  • With its doors open 24/7, Honey Pig (Gooldaegee) is the go-to place for locals to get their KBBQ fix. Honey Pig offers pork belly, bulgogi, and other KBBQ specialties at the more-than-reasonable price of $12.99. It’s so popular that it made the list of this year’s 10 most successful LivingSocial deals, bringing in $137,940 in one day!
  • 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 PursuitRooftop 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, Dana Tai Soon BurgessEugenia 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 Post calling 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.
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KAs@Work: Frances Park & Ginger Park of Chocolate Chocolate

Posted on 13 October 2011 by Deborah J. Yoon

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KAs@Work is a new series that profiles Korean Americans and their jobs. Want to share what you do, or know of people with interesting jobs? Get in touch.

Frances (left) and Ginger (right)

Chocolate is a universal guilty pleasure. The smooth, melt-in-your-mouth indulgence is sure to put a smile on any face. The two people that know this joy better than anyone else are the chocoholic sisters, Frances Park and Ginger Park. After wanting to start a business together for quite some time, they had a sudden epiphany to open a chocolate boutique called Chocolate Chocolate in Washington D.C. They both absolutely loved chocolate, so what could be better? In addition to their store (which has been open for more than twenty-five years!), both sisters are also award-winning authors who have recently released a memoir about their chocolate shop. We had the privilege of getting to know more about Frances and Ginger, and how it all began.

Please tell us a little about yourselves.

We grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. We’re sisters and soul mates, sweetshop owners, as well as authors who, between the two of us, have published 8 previous works of fiction. And… we’re chocoholics.

What inspired you to start a chocolate boutique?

You might say that when we lost a father, we sought out and found a dream. Our father was our star in the dark, the man who could do anything. Raised as the first son in an impoverished family in Korea, he went to bed hungry every night and weighed less than 100 pounds on his wedding day. Indeed, as a schoolboy, he milked goats and made deliveries to rich Japanese families before the sun rose to help buy rice for his family, all the while peddling and dreaming of a better life. He achieved that, and much more. He always tried to instill a certain ‘dream character’ in us- to set your sights high and go for it. But in 1979, our father suffered a fatal stroke in Honolulu- he was only 56 years old. In shock, we clung to each other. We’d always been close and hung out, but now it felt paramount. Not only would we stay together, we would build a business together. We thought of every kind of business imaginable from a McDonald’s franchise to a Dunkin’ Donuts, all the while popping Hershey Kisses. Then it dawned on us— CHOCOLATE! And the rest is history.

What were your expectations for Chocolate Chocolate?

We really didn’t have any expectations. Don’t get us wrong, we wanted to succeed, but we weren’t business-minded people. As mentioned before, we wanted to stay together and this was the ideal situation. Little did we know we’d eat more chocolate than we sold that first year! To keep us occupied, we rented an IBM Selectric typewriter and wrote silly vignettes about some of our beloved customers unbeknownst to us that these stories would someday find their way into our memoir, a quarter of a century later.

What are some of your most popular treats?

We’re not chocolate snobs and believe that there’s a sweet treat for every mood. Our customers agree. Sometimes you want a morsel of fine French chocolate to melt onto your tongue like our Michel Cluizel Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee. Sometimes you just want to curl up with a good book and a pound of Milk Pecan Turtles. One of our most popular pieces is our Dark Almond Bark. We’ll never forget the day after 911. Our shop was packed with customers who lingered a bit longer than usual. One woman purchased a large slab of Dark Almond Bark and just before leaving, she turned to the crowd, raised her piece of bark and said, “You know, if you handed this out in a war zone there would be peace on earth.” She’s right.

Chocolate Chocolate in D.C.

Aside from being purveyors of chocolate, both of you are also award-winning authors, and most recently published a memoir, Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could?. Please tell us about the book and your writing/creative process (how was it different from writing a fictional story?). And, did you always plan on publishing a book about the sweet and bitter memories of opening your chocolate store?

Our memoir chronicles our quarter century behind the candy counter; the trials and tribulations, the best customers in the world, a little bit of romance, and of course, a lot about chocolate! Writing a memoir was very different than our previous fiction works—instead of inventing new worlds, we had to recreate the world we’d live in since 1984. People often ask us how on earth we write books together. The truth is, we never actually sit down and write together, per se. We’re always in different homes, working on separate or different parts of a book. We actually do very little talking about our work while it’s in progress—the way we communicate is with little handwritten notes in the margins, post-its and emails. For some inexplicable reason, working this way just comes naturally to us—it’s as if the sound of speech is jarring to the very silent writing process. The journey of penning our collective psyches proved to be wondrous, hilarious, sentimental, conflicting and tearful. Yet in dealing with memories chronicling a twenty-five year span, some stories, however clear to us, had to be left out. There were times, for example, when we remembered an incident very differently, and had to shelve it. It was also very challenging to open up our personal lives to the world.

The Park Sisters with their memoir, Chocolate Chocolate

Of the books you have co-wrote together, which was the most fun or memorable to write?

Our memoir was definitely the most fun. A book laced with chocolate is a delicious book to write, indeed! Chocolate aside, it was amazing how many memories we resurrected for this book that would have otherwise been forgotten for a lifetime. Our novel To Swim Across the World was truly a labor of love. The book was inspired by our parents’ lives as young people growing up during the Japanese Occupation of Korea and spans the Korean War.

Any future plans?

We recently sold an allergy cookbook tentatively titled: The Yummy Allergy Cookbook. The book was inspired by Ginger’s son, Justin, who is a severely allergic child. He can’t eat dairy, tree nuts, eggs, sesame, and many fruits. He’s never eaten a single piece of chocolate form our shop. Imagine that! The book is scheduled for release by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in early 2013. [Frances] is also currently working on an adult novel, and [Ginger] just completed a Young Adult novel.

For more information on Frances and Ginger, go to: http://www.parksisters.com/

Chocolate Chocolate
1130 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20036
Follow Chocolate Chocolate on Facebook and Twitter

[Photos: Patricia Moreis-Stiles/Fairfax City Patch; Chocolate Chocolate website]

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Korean-Americans Marching for Immigration Reform

Posted on 18 March 2010 by Korean Beacon

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Did you know that among Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), Korean Americans have the greatest rate of undocumented immigrants?  In a Huffington Post article titled “Korean Americans March for America,” Minsuk Kim writes about the struggles of undocumented Korean-American immigrants and you’ll be surprised who they are.  They’re people who are manual laborers to ivy league students.  And they have one thing in common and that it’s a struggle to survive.

Nearly a quarter million Korean Americans are undocumented as the result of this promise of a better life coming into conflict with the realities of the immigration system.

Undocumented Korean American college students have been especially vocal in the fight for immigration reform. The stories of the measures taken by these students and their families to support a college education give the push to pass reform a special sense of urgency. Their hardship extends well beyond their ineligibility for financial aid. A huge question mark looms over their post-graduation plans – without a Social Security number, how are they to find employment?

As the immigration reform movement escalates in size and intensity, undocumented Korean American students will continue to make their voices heard. On March 21, over 100,000 people from every corner of America will come together in Washington D.C. to show their support for immigration reform in a “March For America,” and Korean Americans from California to New Jersey will be among them.

For the full article, go to the Huffington Post.

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Michelle Rhee on Her Second Anniversary

Posted on 31 October 2009 by Korean Beacon

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michelle_rheeMichelle Rhee is the lighting bolt chancellor of the Washington D.C. school district and she’s made a lot of press lately because she let go a handful of teachers last month.  She’s been viewed as controversial and she’s approaching her second anniversary on the job.  History will be the judge of her work but what can be said is that prior to her arrival, the school district was an abysmal failure and the people who were truly hurt by this were the children who were educated in that school district.  Obviously the status quo could no longer be acceptable and she’s made some clear and dramatic changes.  Let’s hope that we start seeing the results for the sake of these kids.

So what does she think as she enters deeper into her administration?  The Washington Post conducted a video interview of her and asked how things have progressed.

Go to the Washington Post for the video interview.

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Yul Kwon Joins the FCC

Posted on 23 October 2009 by Korean Beacon

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yul_kwonRemember Yul Kwon?  He was the Korean-American who outlasted other contestants and won $1M on the reality show Survivor.  Since his triumph, he’s been trying to figure out his next moves with stints on TV.  Well, he’s now joining the Obama administration as deputy chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  In previous interviews, he had mentioned his desire to be involved in politics and it looks like he’s made his way to the beltway in Washington D.C.  At least his new zip code will reunite him with his co-contestant Becky Lee, who was also on the same Survivor.  She’s Korean-American and she came close to winning the big prize.  She’s kept close to Yul since they departed the show.   She lives in the D.C. area and currently runs her non-profit “Becky’s Fund,” which brings awareness to domestic violence.


Washington, DC – Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the appointment of Mindel De La Torre as Chief of the International Bureau and Yul Kwon as Deputy Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

“The FCC has an important role to play in empowering and protecting consumers and ensuring that they have access to world-leading communications networks and technologies,” said Chairman Genachowski. “These talented individuals have vast public and private sector experience in communications policy and I am delighted to have their expertise at the agency.”

Chief, International Bureau, Mindel De La Torre. Since 1998, Ms. De La Torre has been the president of the consulting firm Telecommunications Management Group, Inc. (TMG). Prior to joining TMG, Ms. De La Torre was the deputy chief of the Telecommunications Division at the International Bureau, which she joined in December 1994. Ms. De La Torre also worked at the Department of Commerce — for over four years at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and for three years in the General Counsel’s office. She has been a member of various U.S. delegations to International Telecommunication Union conferences, such as World Radiocommunication Conferences, World Telecommunication Development Conferences, and Plenipotentiary Conferences. Ms. De La Torre has a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from the University of Texas. Having lived overseas most of her life, she speaks fluent Portuguese, French, and Spanish, and is proficient in Italian.

Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Yul Kwon. Mr. Kwon’s diverse career spans across law, technology, business, and media. His government experience includes lecturing at the FBI Academy, drafting science and technology legislation as an aide to Senator Joseph Lieberman, and clerking for Judge Barrington D. Parker on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. In the business and technology sector, Mr. Kwon has held positions at McKinsey & Company, Google, and the Trium Group. He also practiced law as an attorney at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis and at Venture Law Group. In 2006, Mr. Kwon became the first Asian American to win the CBS reality show, Survivor. His subsequent media activities include working as a special correspondent for CNN and as a co-host for the Discovery Channel. Mr. Kwon obtained his B.S. degree in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University and his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served on the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal.

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Michelle Rhee Leading from the Front

Posted on 27 September 2009 by Korean Beacon

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michelle_rheeMichelle Rhee is the young chancellor of the Washington D.C. Public Schools and she’s out to reform one of the worst public school systems in the country.  She calls the status of the current system “a crime.” She’s taking on one of the biggest challenges out there and her approach has been scrutinized and criticized but when the status quo has failed the children miserably, why not pursue an unconventional path.  Michelle was featured in this weekend’s Washington Post and she shares insights about her approach to reforming the school system that she is tasked to oversee and her approach to leadership.

The two insights she gives into leadership is to lead from the front and to better communicate. What does leading from the front mean? Don’t get so mired in bureaucracy and get out front and show a vision and bring people to where you are. And secondly, proactive communication is critical to make sure the message is clear.  She’s a woman of extreme candor and this will naturally cause friction, but she continues to lead out in front.

Source: Washington Post

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