Koreans Ask: Who Is the Next Jane Kim?


Jane Kim’s election to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors seems to have sparked a tidal shift within the Korean American community toward political involvement.

A half-page ad in the Korea Daily in Union City proudly declares, “Last November, the first ever Korean American city official was elected in San Francisco.”

Thanking the community for its support, the ad goes on to urge readers to put themselves into the forefront of local politics, suggesting that the next Jane Kim is out there, waiting to be elected.

The advertisement, part of a gala held on Feb. 25 at the San Francisco Korean Community Center celebrating Kim’s election, was soon followed by an op-ed in the Korea Times looking back at Asian Americans’ shared history of overcoming discrimination and the importance of political participation.

Pointing to a long-forgotten incident at the turn of the 20th century, when a member of a visiting Korean delegation was accosted on San Francisco’s Market Street in what the San Francisco Chronicle described at the time as a racially motivated attack, Korea Times writer Jong Hyuk Lee argues that such examples should serve as reminders of the importance of political participation for young Korean Americans.

Lee highlights the work of Chinese Americans who have reached leadership positions in the Bay Area, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who spent years trying to improve education in underserved African American neighborhoods and interim San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Such examples, Lee argues, should stand as important lessons for young Korean Americans growing up in a community long used to remaining within its own “comfort zone.”

Koreans, he says, need to get out and reach beyond their own community. “Young Koreans need to look to a shared past of struggle and achievement,” he writes, “in order to help build on past and present achievements.”

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