California state Assemblywoman Young Kim (R-Fullerton) started her career in politics as a political aide, serving the Asian American constituents of Congressman Ed Royce as his Director of Community Relations and Asian Affairs.
“My biggest reason for entering politics was to serve my community and make a difference in people’s lives,” Kim said in an email interview with JSR.
Despite the cultural and language barriers, immigrants from Asia came to America in search for better living conditions, job opportunities, and education for themselves and their children. As a minority race in politics, Asian Americans faced racial discrimination and were accused of being secretly loyal only to Asian countries.
However, they fought against this stereotype and spoke up for their rights. The trailblazers for Asian Americans in politics first came from Hawaii, as George Ariyoshi became the first Asian American governor of Hawaii and Daniel Inouye as the senator of Hawaii.
Assemblywoman Kim was elected as the 65th State Assembly Representative in 2014 as the first female Korean-American Republican to serve in the California state legislature. She is also the first Asian American to represent her district.
“Asians have a long and increasingly influential role in politics,” she said. “For the Korean American community, the L.A. riots in 1992 were the catalyst for deepening the sense of urgency and recognition of the need to have representation in politics.”
As a second-generation Korean American, Steve S. Kim, a man who ran a flower shop with his sister, had his first encounter with politics when a customer asked him in 1993 if he had any interest in politics. In the aftermath of the riots, new Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan had decided to assemble a diverse staff.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the customer organized an interview with Riordan’s chief of staff, and Kim was assigned a role as the liaison between the mayor’s office and the Korean American community.
Steve Kim was one of only two Korean political deputies in City Hall in the early ’90s. Since then, the number of Asian Americans who seek to work for, or become, politicians has greatly increased. Politicians often hire deputies with a certain descent to make a bridge to a particular community. For example, L.A. City Councilman David Ryu started out as a deputy for the former L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Burke. As a deputy, he kept Burke informed about the needs of her Asian Americans constituents.