Young Korean American Leaders Visit the Old Country

Young Korean American Leaders Visit the Old Country

Some 40 successful second-generation Korean-Americans arrived in their ancestral home on Sunday. It was the first visit of members of the Network of Korean American Leaders (NETKAL) since it was formed. On arrival, they visited the historic Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul to get a feel for the old country.

During their eight-day visit, they are to visit the Ministry of Information and Communication, Samsung Electronics and the National Assembly and talk with the communication minister and other leaders here. They will also visit the Museum of Independence and the armistice line.

NETKAL is a nonprofit group set up in April 2005 in Los Angeles and consists of second-generation Korean Americans who have achieved success in politics, economics, culture and other fields in the U.S. Members all come from LA, where the most U.S. Koreans live, but the organization plans to expand nationwide. Their goal is to use their influences to give Koreans a voice in the U.S. To do this, they listen to the needs of Korean Americans and submit requests to Congress and the financial world. Feeling that Korean soap operas and music have improved the image of Korea in the U.S., they want to publicize Korea’s achievements and support the export of Korean entertainment there.

Members include: in business, Joseph Ahn (39), a corporate state government relations specialist with Northrop Grumman; Jimmy Lee (36), the head of public relations with IW Group; and Benet Kim (34), a manager with realtors Big Rock Partners; in politics, Alexander Kim (34, the deputy director for community liaison with the Office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; and in academe, Grace Chee of the History Department of Santa Monica College.

Ahn said, “Koreans work hard in America and you can see some Koreans getting high salaries, but while there are many middle managers, it’s hard to find top managers. There are many barriers that Koreans must overcome as a minority in America. Even though we grew up and were educated in America, to Americans we are still just Asians. We hope to break those prejudices.” Janny Kim (29), a regional executive with Southern California Edison, said, “We didn’t have a role model ourselves, but we hope to act as role models for young Korean Americans.”

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