Capitol Alert

Assemblywoman Young Kim recalls parents’ sacrifice to move to U.S.

Assemblywoman Young Kim, R-Fullerton, is sworn in on Dec. 1 at the state Capitol in Sacramento. Her family left South Korea when she was a girl, and now Kim is California’s first Korean American legislator, representing northern Orange County.
Assemblywoman Young Kim, R-Fullerton, is sworn in on Dec. 1 at the state Capitol in Sacramento. Her family left South Korea when she was a girl, and now Kim is California’s first Korean American legislator, representing northern Orange County. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Nearly a third of the 2015-2016 California Legislature are first-term members. In this occasional series, The Bee introduces you to Sacramento’s newest lawmakers.

On a beach in Guam, an intermediate home for Young Kim’s family between leaving Seoul and settling in Hawaii, an adolescent Kim would join her mother in collecting bottles and cans.

It was not just an environmental effort: As Kim later learned, the recycling proceeds went toward the church where immigrant families like hers worked to forge a community and discuss “how we are assimilating into this new culture, new community.”

“It instilled in me the sense of community involvement, of giving back to the community that you currently reside in or live in,” Kim said.

Now a Republican Assembly member representing northern Orange County, Kim has made homes in communities separated by thousands of miles. Born in South Korea, she attended junior high school in Guam, graduated from high school in Hawaii, enrolled at the University of Southern California and eventually settled in Fullerton. She is now California’s first Korean-American Republican woman to become a state legislator.

“According to my husband’s description of who Young Kim is, I’m a Pacific islander who made it big time in the bigger world,” Kim said. My parents “made a lot of sacrifice” to come to America, she added. “Look, they made the right decision.”

That sense of public service first gleaned on Guam’s beaches led Kim to a job with Ed Royce, a former state senator and now congressman her husband had met while promoting a nonprofit called the Korean American Coalition.

She served as a liaison to the Asian American community and became accustomed to public visibility with a television show and a radio program, “LA Seoul with Young Kim” and Radio Seoul, that discussed current events and issues affecting Korean Americans.

“Public speaking is something that you just have to be comfortable with,” Kim said. “Over the years, I did become pretty comfortable.”

Editor’s Note: This story was corrected at 11 a.m. April 20, 2015 to reflect that Kim is the first Korean-American Republican woman to become a state lawmaker in California.

VIDEO: Kim discusses helping her parents navigate a new country.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

ASSEMBLYWOMAN YOUNG KIM

Party: Republican

Residence: Fullerton

Age: 52

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, University of Southern California, 1985

Career: Financial analyst, First Interstate Bank; controller, JK Sportswear Manufacturing; director of community relations and Asian Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton

Assembly committees: Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy; Banking and Finance; Budget; Education; Transportation

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