2022-2023 KAC MUN PROGRAM
The Korean American Coalition (KAC) is now taking applications for the 2022-2023 Model United Nations (MUN) Program. Because KAC’s top priorities include protecting the health and safety of our students and ensuring continued access to a range of students, KAC MUN will be remaining virtual this year, with weekly virtual classes focused on improving students’ leadership, public speaking, problem-solving, research, writing, and collaboration skills. Due to improved conditions and to allow for students to have in-person options, we will be offering some in-person conference opportunities this academic year. This year, priority will be given to local applicants.
- The KAC MUN Program is the longest consecutively running program in the Korean American community.
- This year, the KAC MUN Program will continue to operate in a virtual format and will run from September 2022 to May 2023.
- Class will be a 2.5 hour virtual session held once a week in addition to MUN conferences held over the weekend.
- Participants will develop their skills in public speaking, negotiation, research, writing, critical analysis, and leadership.
- Last year, KAC MUN students participated in 2 virtual conferences, won five awards from UCLA BruinMUN and Yale MUN conference, conducted a student-led internal conference, and participated in Community Advocacy Project.
- Previous KAC MUN seniors were accepted into Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Amherst, Boston University, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE ?
- Middle and high school students entering grades 8-11 (12th grade students are only eligible to apply if they are returning students).
- New students with no MUN experience are welcome to apply.
- This year, we will only accept students based in Southern California. (NOTE: This does not apply for returning MUN students.)
- One-time Program Fee will be collected at the Student/Parent Orientation session:
- Early Bird Program Fee: $135 (for applications submitted before August 5, 2022)
- Regular Program Fee: $150 (for applications submitted between August 6 and August 19, 2022)
- Monthly Fee: $75 fee will be collected on the first week of each month
- Additional fees apply for each MUN conference.
HOW TO APPLY
If you are interested in joining the 2022-2023 KAC MUN Program, please read the instructions below.
1. Complete the Online 2022-2023 KAC MUN Application.
- Required Documents:
- Recent Transcript
- ONE Reference
- THREE Short Response Questions (250-500 words each)
2. Need-based financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Please contact Jeany Choi at email@example.com for more information.
- Early Bird Application Deadline: Friday, August 5, 2022
- Regular Application Deadline: August 19, 2022
- Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis
- Acceptance notifications: September 9, 2022
- Student/Parent Online Orientation: Saturday, September 17, 2022
KAC Model United Nations (MUN) Program
KAC Model United Nations (MUN) is a civic engagement program for middle and high school students in the County of Los Angeles. Acting as delegates from the United Nations (UN) member states, students participate in and recreate UN meetings at conferences throughout the country to discuss a wide variety of past and current global issues. Students must conduct research in preparation for these conferences and prepare speeches to present to their committees.
KAC MUN program is intended to give inner-city youth insight into the world at large – geopolitics, international relations, and national and international politics – while polishing everyday skills, all in an effort to engage students in a critical reflection of not only global but local issues.
• The KAC MUN is the longest consecutive running program in the Korean American community.
• Participants will see improvements in public speaking, writing, critical analysis skills, and leadership skills.
• Previous KAC MUN seniors were accepted into Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Amherst, Boston University, Duke, Harvard,
UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC.
Application deadline is August of each year and the MUN program runs from September to May.
Middle and high school students entering grades 8-11 (12th grade students are only eligible to apply if they are returning students).
KAC MUN Students Win 4 Awards at the Yale MUN Conference
한미연합회 모의유엔 학생들 예일(Yale) 대학 모의유엔대회에서 4개 상 수상
한미연합회 모의유엔(Model United Nations, 이하 “MUN”) 학생들이 지난 1월 20일부터 23일까지 총 3박 4일 동안 예일(Yale) 대학교 주관으로 개최된 온라인 모의유엔대회(YMUN)에 참가하여 우수상을 비롯한 총 4개의 상을 수상하는 쾌거를 거두었다. 금년 48번째로 개최된 Yale 모의유엔대회는 경쟁이 치열하고 어렵기로 이름난 대회로서 전 세계 약 200개의 고등학교에서 1,800명이 넘는 학생들이 참여하였고, 참가자들에게는 모의유엔 뿐만 아니라 Yale에서 주관하는 Yale Day와 다양한 스피치 강의 일정에도 참여할 기회가 제공되었다.
19명의 KAC MUN 학생들은 각각 다른 UN 회원국 국가의 대표로서 총 13개의 위원회에 배정되어 참가자들과 열띤 토론과 협상을 벌인 끝에 세계보건기구 (World Health Organizations)에 참가한 ‘제이미 임 (Jamie Lim)’ 학생과 ‘지니 김 (Jeannie Kim)’ 학생이 우수상을 받았고 유엔총회 제6위원회에 참가한 ‘매튜 셰이 (Matthew Hsieh)’ 학생과 유엔지속가능발전위원회 (UNCSD)에 참가한 ‘마이클 셰이 (Michael Hsieh)’ 학생이 각각 장려상을 받았다.
한미연합회 MUN 프로그램에서 학생들을 지도하고 있는 소피아 신 선생님은 “우리 MUN 학생들이 Yale MUN 대회에서 좋은 성과를 내기 위해 지난 몇 달 동안 본인이 들어가는 위원회에 대한 자료와 주제에 대해 열심히 조사하고, 연설문을 작성해보고 즉흥적인 대중 연설 및 토론 기술을 익히는데 힘을 기울였으며, 실전 감각을 기르기 위해 학생들끼리 직접 모의유엔회를 실시하였다’고 설명하며 “이런 성실한 준비 과정을 통해 한미연합회 MUN 학생들이 지도력과 협상력 등 훌륭한 외교 역량을 인정받아 Yale MUN 대회에서 좋은 결과를 이룬 것 같아 기쁘다.”라고 전했다.
한미연합회 유니스 송 대표는 “올해 MUN 학생들이 이뤄낸 성과를 축하하며, 이번 대회를 통해 참가 학생들이 국제적 감각과 역량을 키우고 국제 사회 현안에 대해 이해하는 값진 경험을 했을 것이라 생각한다”며, “앞으로도 청소년들이 꿈을 키워나갈 수 있도록 지원을 아끼지 않겠다”라고 덧붙였다.
KAC MUN students competed virtually in the 48th Yale MUN Conference from January 20 to January 23, 2022, and KAC is proud to announce that four of our students received individual awards at this highly competitive conference. Roughly 1,800 upper middle and high school students from all around the world discussed issues ranging from Cyber Security to Vaccine Hesitancy, and passed dozens of resolutions to address global problems.
Over the course of the four-day event, our KAC MUN students were hard at work in demonstrating leadership, collaboration, problem solving, and public speaking skills. Each of KAC’s MUN students developed individual goals prior to attending this conference, and our students were excited to report having made significant progress over the course of this conference.
KAC congratulates our MUN students on their dedicated work over the last two months in preparing for the Yale MUN conference as well as on their outstanding performance over the combined 16.5 hours of committee sessions over the last four days.
KAC MUN Gallery
Model United Nations (MUN) is intended to give inner-city youth insight into the world at large, while honing their leadership skills, all in an effort to engage students in a critical reflection of the global and local issues affecting their communities today. Acting as delegates from the United Nations (UN) member states, students participate in simulated UN conferences in committees that discuss topics ranging from North Korea’s nuclear program to providing children in developing nations with access to healthcare and education.
MUN meetings are 3 hour sessions held once a week at the KAC office. MUN is intended to give inner-city youth insight into the world at large – geopolitics, international relations, and national and international politics – while polishing everyday skills, all in an effort to engage students in a critical reflection of not only global but local issues.
The Korean American Coalition has a long history of leadership training: the National College Leadership Conference, which is the longest continuously running college leadership conference in the country and the KAC Summer College Internship Program which provides highly qualified college students with summer internships to gain experience in their fields of interest. The MUN program, not offered at any area high schools, is thereby designed as an ambitious leadership training program for local high school students.
To learn more, please visit the MUN 2021-2022 page.
NATIONAL COLLEGE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE NCLC
The National College Leadership Conference (NCLC) is the longest running annual leadership conference for Korean American students in the United States. NCLC strives to educate and inspire future generations of Korean Americans and develop leaders among them.
The KAC National College Leadership Conference is an opportunity for young Korean Americans to meet established professionals in their field of interest, learn essential leadership skills to assist them in their future professions, and make friends of other bright, ambitious Korean Americans. The Leadership Conference builds awareness of current and past issues facing the Korean American community, with an emphasis on the importance of participation and the appreciation of cultural identity and roots.
2020 NCLC ANNOUNCEMENT
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact KACLA’s Program Coordinator, Esther Jung at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (213) 365-5999.
The KAC National College Leadership Conference is an opportunity for young Korean Americans to meet established professionals in their field of interest, learn essential leadership skills to assist them in their future professions, and make friends of other bright, ambitious Korean Americans. The Leadership Conference builds awareness of current and past issues facing the Korean American community, with an emphasis on the importance of participation and the appreciation of cultural identity and roots. Past participants include World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Korean American Actor Ki Hong Lee (Maze Runner).
“NCLC gave me the opportunity to connect with an incredibly diverse group of Korean American peers, granting me a sense of solidarity I never knew I craved. Most importantly, NCLC provided the space for me to unpack my Korean Americanness, and define that identity for myself.” – Audrey Jang, Pomona College ‘19
Hankyul Sharon Lee reflects her experience at NCLC 2016: “The Yellow Butterfly Effect” (The Korea Daily)
We’d also like to thank our generous sponsor, Mr. Keith Kim, for his continued support of the National College Leadership Conference.
Past NCLC Photos
The five days at KAC’s National College Leadership Conference were hands down the best way I could’ve started my summer. I had been planning to begin my first week of break sleeping in, and relaxing by the pool but this conference took me by surprise. It was extremely eye opening in terms of strengthening my identity as a Korean-American and exposing me to the issues that our community as a whole faces. It redefined what it meant for me to be a leader and a Korean-American as well. I went expecting to have speakers lecture at us and teach what they believed were the definitions to both. However, each and every panel speaker had conversations with us on their experiences and stories allowing us to formulate our own paths and narratives. Each speaker inspired me in their own ways and helped me to realize that I shouldn’t just wait for someone else to create the solution or take the chance. Even if I am Korean-American, part of the minority, and less privileged, I can do anything too. It encouraged me to set my goals higher and find areas where I could give back to those around me.
Not only were the speakers amazing, but the counselors and peers I met became the community and the friends that I couldn’t have met anywhere else. Despite having different interests, goals, and stories, our commonality of being Korean-American tied us together. From playing the adjective name game to watching Kingdom late at night to bonding over cup ramyun, we were able to create memories and learn from each other’s stories even outside of the conference room. As each day passed, I grew sad that the week was coming to an end and the five days didn’t feel like enough. Thanks to NCLC, I know that I’ll always have these friends to reach out to and that these five days were only the beginning to our connection. I’m excited to see what we’ll do individually and collectively in the future.
Throughout my life, I thought about my identity very much. I grew up in a diverse environment in good ol’ Silicon Valley, California. But as diverse as it was, I never really felt entirely accepted. I was always playing sports as a little girl with the boys while the the other girls sat around and just talked to each other. I did swimming and got extremely tan, while other kids went home or went on actual vacations. I didn’t go to church like other Korean kids in my area. I didn’t speak Korean like the other Korean kids who could. I didn’t have straight A’s like the other Korean kids. I was outspoken, loud, and always wanted to do something. My dad knew that I didn’t really understand my identity. He knew that I was like the other Korean kids, but, because of the way I look, I wouldn’t be considered American at first glance. So what did he do? Day in and day out he would remind me that I am a Chang from Sunnyvale, California and I am a Korean American. So despite the lack of community I felt from others, I at least had my dad to reassure to me that it is okay to be Korean American. But eventually, I lost him. My dad passed away when I was 13 years old. He was the only person that reinforced my identity and its importance. But when he was gone, the ability to accept myself disappeared like him. Throughout high school, I ended up burying my identity. I put up walls around me and a hard persona, so no one questioned who I was because I was stern and was convincing enough to others that I already knew who I was. But I didn’t.
NCLC changed that.
When I was applying to NCLC, I honestly had no idea what I was going to be signing up for. I knew that I was signing up to meet and listen to Korean Americans in the real world, but I didn’t think I was going to have to face the thing that I buried years ago. NCLC was truly a life changing experience. Not only did I get to talk to Korean Americans in different professions, but I was given the opportunity to open up my identity. It was the first time in 5 years that I felt like myself. I felt like a Korean American. All of the speakers, peers and counselors had a lot of the same experiences as I did growing up Korean, which was very comforting. As the week progressed, the acceptance of my Korean American identity began to open itself up. I remember breaking down on reflection day about my struggles with my trauma and self-hatred throughout my life because I was Korean American. I never experienced anything like it and I do not regret it.
Moon Sung Gwak
When I moved to the United States at the age of two, my Korean roots began to slowly drift away from the cultural identity that I neglected growing up. My school environment, friends, and experiences in a “white-washed” community never urged me to question my identity and the differences between myself and my peers. Until my sophomore year of high school, I started to observe the same pattern among other Korean Americans — our parent’s desire to push their children harder, attend an “acceptable” university, and get a “good” job that usually entailed becoming a lawyer or doctor. These patterns I observed through the lens of a young Korean American made me angry and question the validity of such expectations that we must always somehow conform to. That’s why during my latter half of my adolescence, I rejected my Korean heritage for my American pride. I could never understand why I always felt like I had to wear an ethnic facade about who I was and which culture I represented.
Sure, my first expectation at NCLC was to learn about other people and listen to them talk about how they studied hard to be where they are right now, but my actual experience was significantly different than my expectations. The conference was representative of the struggles first generation Korean Americans faced to survive in a harsh society and how our generation came to idolize success while breaking from the limitations Asian Americans faced just decades ago. Rather than learning to see the revelations and successes in others at NCLC, I learned to understand my culture’s values through my own thoughts and realizations. I found the explanations I have searched for representative of my childhood. I now know to be proud of the culture that I stand for, how to live a successful life while contributing to the very community that upholds the same values I do.
New York University 2022
I expected NCLC to be the traditional summer camp, consisting of leadership and public speaking games on the grass, bonding over lunchbox stories and devouring cup ramen. And while lunch box stories were shared and cup ramen was devoured, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the issues we dealt with and learned about. Seeing how everyone in the conference, be it the speaker, counselors, or students, was affected to differing degrees by and held (sometimes) contrasting opinions on the same issues really exemplified that although we are one community, there is so much diversity in thought and experiences among each and every one of us. Getting the chance to hear from such passionate and hardworking filmmakers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, news producers, authors, and NASA engineers (just to name a few) was truly empowering and cemented in me the duty to further the growth of the Korean American community, by shattering the “bamboo ceiling” and helping those who are ostracized and struggling. The best part was that every speaker blew me away in a different way — through his or her incredible creativity, adventurous spirit, unshakable grit, infectious humor, humility and positivity — had something new to say.
As for the students and counselors I spent the five days with, there was an undeniable connection I felt with the group. Whether that was because we’re all Korean Americans or they were just fantastic people, I’m not sure — perhaps both — but the shared experience of telling our stories and watching the K-drama, “Kingdom,” together every night instilled in me a sense of comfort and community. Thank you to the amazing counselors and students for being so relatable and compassionate, and thank you for KAC for the network of peers and professionals I connected to through NCLC!
Brown University 2022
Success has always been something that I have internally wrestled to define. As an Asian American and more specifically, Korean American, I had felt a constant pressure to excel in everything that I did and meet the expectations that had been set upon me by my parents and community. However, through my week at NCLC and hearing the speakers share about their lives and how they have individually defined their own success, I felt so empowered as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. From teachers to investment bankers, I witnessed the same resilience and compassion that each speaker shared which encouraged me to find fulfillment in whatever I want to do as long as I did it with a passion.
Meeting other young Korean Americans who are motivated to push for change within our communities filled me with such hope and a sense of ease knowing that the future is in good hands. We were able to share our pains and imperfections as individuals as well as a collective community and I found this vulnerability to be a reflection of our attitudes to embrace our Korean history which has been full of trauma and recognize that united, we are stronger. Many of us had similar stories and experiences and for us to have a space where we were able to reaffirm one another showed me what it meant to be a leader and more importantly, a listener.
NCLC was an eye-opening experience and I know that I have made some lifelong connections through this conference. Thank you to all the counselors for your hard work and I truly hope NCLC continues to cultivate bright and driven future Korean-American leaders for our community.
Wrapping up the National College Leadership Program, I found myself reflecting on what it means to be a successful Korean American. The first-generational pursuit of becoming successful through a reputable career was being challenged, evident in the diversity of the speakers’ occupations ranging from children’s book illustrator to a lawyer-turned-filmmaker. What the amazing speakers seemed to emphasize was that success comes from a proper mindset and hard work. Regardless of intellectual capability or interests, it is determination that will provide the strong framework in which passion can thrive. It is with pride that I can say that I recognized this determination in each and every one of my peers at the conference. In the speakers’ inspiring life stories and the company of my friends, I found the answer to my question—a successful Korean American is whoever they want to be.
Amherst College 2022
Bo James Hwang
Los Angeles, CA
As a low-income and first generation college student who grew up in a predominantly Latinx immigrant community, it was difficult for me to relate to other Korean Americans. I felt like issues pertaining to Asian Americans, let alone Korean Americans, were minor compared to other ethnic minorities. I felt unseen and unheard. However, NCLC allowed me to better understand our multifaceted identities and experiences. Through NCLC, I met amazing professionals and student leaders. It was refreshing to unpack my Korean American identity with other college students who also struggled to better understand themselves in this world. I am so grateful for this amazing experience. I was transformed by the dialogues that I had with other students, counselors, and speakers. I will like to personally thank Korean American Coalition, staff, volunteers, and donors for making NCLC possible for me.
UCLA Extension Pre-Medical Post-Baccalaureate Student 2021
I am so thankful that I was able to attend NCLC this year. I went into the week having no idea what to expect. I was nervous about meeting new people, and uncertain about whether I could learn anything from the speakers. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.
Up until NCLC, I have not given much thought to my Korean-American identity. Growing up in a community with very little diversity, I always stood out as “the Asian person” in my school and neighborhood. It was even rarer to be specifically acknowledged as a Korean, much less a Korean-American. NCLC gave me the opportunity to see what that intersectionality of identity looks like. Many of the speakers either immigrated to the U.S. at a very young age, or were born here. I was very encouraged to hear how they refused to be hindered or confined by stereotypes. Their determination to break the “bamboo ceiling” and forward thinking inspires me to continue their work and advocate for the Korean American community as rising leaders in this country.
It was also very uplifting to be surrounded by peers who all come from different backgrounds, yet share a pride in our Korean American identity. A big thanks to all the counselors, coordinators, and students who made NCLC an unforgettable experience!
UC Berkeley 2022
Throughout my life I have felt an ever increasing distance between myself and my Korean American identity. While I was adequately acquainted with other Korean Americans during my middle school years, we ended up attending different high schools, severing my connections with them. My Asian identity further deteriorated when I attended a predominately white high school. I managed to make plenty of friends, yet the differences in our cultures meant that finding relatable experiences to discuss was always a strenuous activity. I became distanced from my own culture, leaving me with a concealed dissatisfaction that I never realized until I attended the NCLC conference.
Spending five days among Korean Americans and listening to their life stories was an experience that revitalized my Korean American identity. My initial apprehension of the conference quickly disappeared as I realized how necessary it was for me to reconnect with my own identity. If I ever wanted to be able to achieve the same level of success as the speakers, then I need to first learn how to be comfortable being a Korean American. It was inspiring to see the past generation of my community achieve success and listen to the wisdom they could impart to future generations. The shared backgrounds of all the members of the conference ensured that the experience was one that we would all be able to relate to and learn from. It truly taught me the importance of culture and the role it plays within identity and connection.
The relationships and experiences that were made during the conference are experiences that I am glad to have partaken in. It strengthened my sense of self-identity, but most importantly, reconnected me to the cultural roots of my character.
Cal Poly Pomona 2022
NCLC was a unique and valuable opportunity for me that I will never forget. Especially in the past couple of years, I have struggled with my identity as a Korean American. My closest friends are not Korean and I also don’t have many Korean American friends. And between my extremely American or Korean friends, I have always found it challenging to feel a complete sense of belonging. This was part of my reason for attending this conference.
I remember the first day when all the attendees were just getting to know each other and listened to our first speakers. To be honest, it felt a little weird… but in a good way. It felt odd to me because I couldn’t remember the last time I was with only Korean Americans around my age. I felt an immediate sense of connectedness despite all of our differences.
And let me tell you that they were not joking about the abundant amount of established professional booked for this conference. Even though it seemed as if there would be no end to the number of professionals speaking, I was able to learn something important from each speaker. After hearing from many speakers, inevitably I got closee to my peers. All jokes aside, I was absolutely blown away from the wisdom that was poured into my life from these influential, powerful, and inspiring leaders. And not only did I get to hear from them, but I was also able to actually connect with each of them afterwards. Though it did feel intimidating at times to be always connecting with the speakers and my peers, I do not regret taking advantage of this experience as it gave me such a unique opportunity to connect with others and challenge myself to grow as a leader.
I want to thank all the amazing counselors, speakers, and peers that have impacted me from this past week. All these people have helped me feel more confident in my sense of identity as a Korean American and this is definitely something that I am proud of. I am so grateful to have entered into a space full of strangers who I now call my community. I am excited to continue my education and one day give back to the Korean American community like they have done for me.
Westmont College 2021
La Crescenta, CA
Jake Jae Won Sim
NCLC was a great learning experience for me where I was able to reconnect with my Korean American heritage and the larger community, with myself as well as other young Korean Americans transitioning into young adulthood. I found NCLC and KAC online as I was researching some things and when I saw it, I was delighted to see a space for Korean American issues outside the Christian community. I know so many organizations set up to organize and help African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Southeast Asian Americans in their communities. Now, I am connected to a community of Korean Americans.
I learned about the Korean American community, history, and the demographics. I enjoyed meeting and learning from specific individuals who were leaders and the firsts of many from the Korean American community. As I stand in between my parent’s Korean older generation and a younger American generation, I did not have role models from similar backgrounds or heritages to look up to. Getting to hear the stories from the perspectives of many speakers who revealed their deepest and sincere thoughts was almost like being able to go into our own futures and asking ourselves those same questions.
More than picking brains at the professional-ish mindset of Korean American leaders, the best thing was being able to connect with all of the other students at the conference. Over the course of five days, we were able to speak and connect with each other on such deep levels even though we were from different hometowns and experiences. Simple things like eating together, walking around together allowed us to get to chat with different people who share the same experiences. Amazing experience and so glad I was able to attend!
UC Berkeley 2020
When my family immigrated to a small suburb near Los Angeles County when I was 10, I began referring to Koreans as the “invisible asians.” The only reason was that whenever someone saw my last name, they would most definitely ask me, “are you Chinese? No? Then Japanese?” and, “Korean? Wait, then which Korea are you from?” and I was frustrated to be seen as a Korean immigrant whenever barrages of questions like these flew my way. I was reluctant to share my Korean name with anyone, but I was still forced into the position to teach Korean curse words to my friends. As I went through middle school and beyond, I viewed being Korean as a weakness.
I came to NCLC thinking I would become even more disillusioned by hearing stories that I never took to heart over and over again, but this conference was different. I felt that attending NCLC was a brand new experience that instilled a new “Koreanness” in me. Listening to speakers that survived through hardships and discrimination among peers, and speakers who went beyond the Korean cultural norm to accomplish their dreams expanded my view of the Korean American community astronomically. Even if there were differences among the speakers, not one of the speakers failed to impress and humble me through their life stories that seemed similar to mine. I feel that I was too reluctant to stand out among my peers, because I was afraid they would target the one thing I had no control over. However, now I wish I could talk to my younger self and tell him that the Korean heritage is what makes him unique, what drives him, what helps him in hard times and what gives him hope, and I hope I can tell the same to future generations of Koreans just like the leaders that spoke to us during this conference.
UC San Diego 2022
La Crescenta, CA
Orange County, a predominantly Asian community is where I spent my formative years. As such, I experienced culture shock when I moved out-of-state for college. I began to realize that I had no ties to being Korean American but only really understanding my identity as an Asian American and interacting with other people based on that identity. The five-day conference was so invigorating and mentally stimulating. It was refreshing to be validated and heard by others who struggled with the duality of their identities in the Korean communities and in the general American population. A common theme in all the speakers and among the students was a shared sense of community. The speakers repeatedly spoke of building a community for Korean Americans so that we can be unified and rely on one another. I often thought that my experiences were so common and that it was unnecessary to speak about it or ask for help on it, but other people struggled like me giving me advice or comfort. The ability to listen and learn from each other regardless of age or experience showed me how the younger generation of the Korean American community is capable to pursue their passions, not just the paths that their parents came here to achieve.
Oregon State University 2021
At first, I was reluctant to attend the NCLC, because I thought that the conference was for people who struggled with their Korean-American identity. Since, over half of my friends are Korean and almost all those who aren’t are Asian, I never felt isolated or targeted due to my ethnicity. Because I was always around people like me, I had never really thought about, let alone struggled with my Korean-American identity. To make matters worse, as a STEM student, I thought that the speakers would focus on subjects that I either know nothing about or couldn’t care to learn about.
To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a terrible understatement. I found everything from the campus to the speakers to the other students absolutely amazing and I had a lot more fun than I could have anticipated. For example, I brought my laptop and a DS thinking I would need something to occupy myself with but ended up not touching either of them for the entire week. While having fun, I also learned things I never thought I would learn from a leadership conference such as that I enjoy jump scares and multiple ways to succeed in mafia. All of this was without mentioning the speakers too. The speakers at NCLC are some of the best speakers I have ever heard in my life. I would never expected to have so much fun from a conference that I was initially skeptical of attending. I’d like to thank KAC for letting me join this wonderful experience.
Cornell University 2021
Palos Verdes, CA
La Canada, California
Although I was unable to attend the whole conference, NCLC definitely shaped the way I envision the Korean American community. Listening to accomplished speakers who felt so passionate about giving back to future generations by sharing their experiences instilled a sense of pride and duty in me. I could sense the hope and expectations they held for our generation, and I felt motivated to fulfill them. The best way I could reciprocate what they’ve given me is by supporting NCLC/KAC in the future when I feel like I have something to give back.
In terms of the student population, I felt so happy to be connected with a group of people who were so open, warm, and supportive of each other. It was refreshing to be surrounded by peers who were highly motivated, trustworthy, and filled with good intentions. I hope I will continue to cross paths with these lovely people in the future.
I also felt appreciation for the counselors who guided the whole program by cultivating a safe space in which the participants could open up and learn from each other. Without their leadership and commitment, NCLC would never have happened! I feel nothing but gratitude for the program and those who participated in it.
University of Southern California ‘16
Throughout my life I have actively avoided and privately derided nationalism. I was certain that pride based on an identity assigned at birth was as dangerous as it was arbitrary, and prided myself in rejecting that mandate. When I went to boarding school, I avoided groups supporting Asian students. Though I resolved to be more open-minded in college, I was not naturally inducted into the appropriate ethnic student circle as so many minority students seemed to be. I can count the number of Korean friends I have on one hand, and I feel ashamed when I find myself referring to “too many” Korean things. Though I am fluent in Korean, I never got hooked on the Hallyu products over which my sister and mother bond every night. I was thrilled to find a class on Korean film, and score a research assistant position studying comfort women, but I worried that my resume was becoming “too” Korean.
In five days, NCLC completely turned my reluctant, disclaimer-ridden Korean American identity on its head. It was the first time I met Korean American adults who were not the non-English speaking, working-class immigrants I knew from church or Koreatown. Inspiring speakers from law, medicine, national security, politics, education, and finance traced their (often dysfunctional) pathway to success. We listened to speakers back to back for hours at a time, and this setup highlighted the diversity of personality, character, politics, values, and advice represented. We heard different opinions about everything, even issues portrayed as having a supposed “Korean consensus” on the matter, such as Saigu or Park Geun Hye’s impeachment. It finally clicked for me that a Korean American identity is not necessarily an inheritance of backwards tradition or stubborn nationalism. Rather, I saw Korean Americanness best defined by the camaraderie we witnessed between and among the speakers and counselors. The obvious respect and encouragement these adults had for each other, as well as the commitment they shared in making sure the next generation of Korean Americans have an even better network of connections.
NCLC connected me to professionals who are willing to answer my annoyingly frequent questions, and who go out of their way to connect me further to people of interest. Thanks to Joon, for example, I am meeting up with the man I hope to work for in two years. NCLC gave me the opportunity to connect with an incredibly diverse group of Korean American peers, granting me a sense of solidarity I never knew I craved. Most importantly, NCLC provided the space for me to unpack my Korean Americanness, and define that identity for myself.
Pomona College ‘19
Los Angeles, CA
Before arriving at KAC’s office in LA, I expected a conference filled with scholars sharing how they paved their roads to success, but I quickly figured out that success and leadership don’t result from intelligence alone, but rather from building character, being resilient, and showing determination. I had high expectations for what I would gain by coming to NCLC, and what I received from this experience exceeded my expectations by far more than I could have imagined. My vision of a leader before attending NCLC was admittedly a poor one, in that I correlated a leader with someone of a higher status, but the most important lesson I learned was that a leader is inside everyone, as long as they are willing to share ideas and form meaningful connections.
I remember feeling extremely nervous to meet the other members attending NCLC and wondering just how well our goals and dreams would intertwine, and it turns out that despite our different plans for the future, everyone conveyed a willingness to learn from each other and even share personal struggles that made them who they are today. This inspired me to truly engage in everyone’s presence and teach myself how to grow as an individual in the Korean-American community. I soon found myself sitting with groups of people sharing life stories and simply listening to different ideas.
Although we had to meet as early as 7:30 am every day, I found myself constantly eager to hear from the group of speakers whose dreams once started out just like mine. These 5 days at NCLC proved to me that it’s not about the length of time that I have, but rather the productivity and quality of each day that results in a true impact.
Every single activity planned for this event from holding hands and making eye contact to listening to countless speakers was equally integral to my experience here at NCLC, because it made me explore different aspects of myself regarding everything from my insecurities to my future career goals. By doing this, I was able to put myself into perspective for others and for myself to better understand the character that I’ve acquired throughout my life.
Something about this group felt easily relatable, and I can honestly say it’s the first time in my life that I’ve felt connected to a whole group rather than just a single person. By being able to make these connections and have a network full of compassionate, humble individuals, I feel that is success in and of itself.
I want to individually thank every member of the 2017 NCLC for making my experience special.
Boston University ‘19
Having grown up in a sheltered, ethnically homogeneous suburb of Los Angeles, reconciling my dual identities as a Korean-American has, at times, been a challenge. I always believed that stifling this foreign aspect of myself would help me achieve a greater sense of belonging; in reality, I only succeeded in manufacturing an artificial identity that betrayed every idiosyncrasy that made me. But after spending a week at KAC’s National Leadership Conference with those who share an interest in our Korean heritage, I am now learning to appreciate and embrace our dual identities.
Wherever I turned, there was always a new person willing to share his or her story. The speakers taught me that a sense of belonging could only be achieved by embracing my identity. Each person had their own obstacles to overcome, and they were able to do so by relying on the support group that a cultural identity provides. It was inspiring to see accomplished community leaders who looked like me and who could relate with the struggles of being a minority, but perhaps the biggest impact I felt was through my peers. We were able to forge bonds through our shared backgrounds; not just through our culture, but also through our interests and hobbies. Every night we would stay up and discuss our lives, struggles, and aspirations. Though I was initially apprehensive about opening up, the intimacy of our environment allowed everyone to feel welcome.
It’s difficult to put into words just how profoundly this experience has affected me, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in it. I went into the program expecting nothing, and I left with an entirely changed worldview and a drive to affect my community and the people around me in a positive way.
Occidental College ‘21
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
I’ve always approached my identity with apprehension, especially that of my Korean-American duality. The multiplicities and varying nuances of this hyphenation were not lost on me, especially growing up in Los Angeles, in America, with an obvious Korean (or some sort of Asian) appearance and traditional Korean family. All throughout my life, I’ve felt forced to choose one or the other, like sacrificing parts of my Korean heritage for being a “true” American, or rejecting my American nationality to fit in with Korean family and friends. As such, I grew to resent what I thought of as a discordant mismatch of blood and environment; a frustrating jigsaw puzzle I could never complete. This sentiment affected my cynical assumptions about attending a program like NCLC: a leadership conference for Korean-Americans. It hadn’t helped that what I most remembered and deduced about the Korean-American community and my family were quite unfavorable. Deep down I knew, however, that I shouldn’t assume the worst of such a large and diverse community. No matter how much I antagonized my Korean roots, it served as a vital part of my selfhood. Little did I know that my perspective about the Korean-American diaspora would blossom from a narrow-minded pessimism to an affirmation of the beautiful amalgam that is the Korean-American community. Hearing from prominent speakers and from my peers, all from different backgrounds and with different dreams, opened my mind to not only the distinctions of life experiences and socioeconomic upbringings, but the similarities we all shared: our Korean-Americanness, our determination, our empathy, and–most importantly–our humanity. Each speaker and student brought with them a unique story, but what truly tied us together was our willingness to be vulnerable: to share not only our successes, but also our weaknesses: our shortcomings and our imperfections. Each of us had a failure (or rather, multiple), but we all chose to rise above these struggles and saw them as a way to grow. With this refreshing honesty, with not only others, but with ourselves, emerged the wider anxieties prevalent in the Korean-American community: mental illness, domestic abuse, financial hardships; topics rarely ever discussed and, to a certain point, considered taboo in our collective diaspora. With newfound connections and a transformed outlook, my direction in life has morphed and evolved into a series of questions: How can I serve my community? How can I make a change? Most importantly: How can I be a conduit for the underrepresented in our community, for the voiceless?
New York University ‘18
Although I only attended the NCLC session for one day, it was a valuable experience with many things to learn from. The lives of various speakers provided me with perspectives other than my own. It allowed me to see how other individuals were brought up in vastly different environments. Moreover, politics is not my expertise. As a result, the political aspect of the conference was an unconventional change to my normal life. However, because much of the current world revolves around politics, I believe that the conference was able to provide me with political awareness that I could not have received from anywhere else. In general, I strongly believe that NCLC was a great experience and would have wished to be there during the entire session.
Claremont McKenna College ‘20
You enter a room full of 15 strangers. You take a seat in an empty chair, and observe the faces of the people around you. Some with confident smiles as they introduce themselves, others with nervous grins as they listen in on conversations around them. You close your eyes for a second as your heart starts pounding.
“Breathe. Relax. It’s okay.” you tell yourself. You take a deep breath and you open your eyes.
For the first couple of days at KAC’s NCLC, this is what I experienced. I was nervous beyond imagination, I had very low confidence in public speaking, and being one of the youngest students there, I was intimidated. For the first couple of days, I closed myself off from the others and kept to myself.
On the third day, we decided to play a game. At first, I thought it would be another typical “get to know each other” game, but the moment the cards were passed out, we read the questions on each card, and opened it up for discussion, I knew my expectations were about to be completely torn down.
As one by one, each person shared their story, my heart was broken and I was at a loss for words. The pain, the struggles, the emotional rollercoaster that my fellow classmates were experiencing were things that I never would have imagined from the smiles and perfect facades they had carried with them the past few days. The vulnerability was evident in the following days and the more I heard their stories, the more my heart ached for them and while I wasn’t in their shoes to truly understand their pain, somehow as I listened, I hurt with them.
But then I remembered something that we had learned the previous day: the importance of connection. And as my eyes scanned the room as it made stops on each person’s face, my heart was overwhelmed with joy. Connecting with their eyes, I began to see something different in each of them. No longer was I seeing people with painful pasts and emotional baggage, but I saw men and women with hearts of compassion, of strength, of forgiveness, of love, of hope. I saw students who were clearly gifted with these priceless characteristics that I do not see in many people nowadays. I saw people who had once fallen and hit rock bottom, only to look up and rise again.
And while from the speakers I learned about what it means to be a leader, what it means to be successful, and what it means to have a dream, this was the lesson that I can confidently say will forever resonate in my heart.
It’s a lesson about connection and why it’s so important to be able to connect with people. It’s about the idea that everybody has a story and how powerful a person’s story can be. It’s about how one smile, one laugh, one tear, one conversation can speak a thousand words.
To be a leader is not to be the best or even try to be the best. To be a leader is to be a follower, a listener, who desires to know and connect with the people around them with a genuine heart.
This is my NCLC story on what it’s taught me. And I encourage you to find yours.
Southern Methodist University ’21
When I first stepped through the door of the KAC building, I was nervous. New faces, unfamiliar territory, and me learning to be a leader. My first thought was to run out of the room, but I’m glad I didn’t. Through this leadership conference, I made amazing friends, met influential speakers, and most importantly, learned the meaning of being a leader. I personally never saw myself as a leader, but in one week I learned it’s more than just a title. Being a leader means giving back to the community, connecting with people, and taking that first step. This event also aided me in meeting unforgettable friends and staffs. Thanks to their open minds and friendly attitudes, it really enhanced my experience. It was a privilege to take part in this conference, and I would love to encourage future generations to join this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Pasadena Community College ‘21
Los Angeles, California
To say that the National College Leadership Conference was amazing would be an understatement. The week-long conference was more than I could ever ask for. Coming into college, I have always wanted to help the Korean American community, but I didn’t know how and where to begin. At my school, where only ten percent of the student body represents Asians, I felt powerless to do anything, and my goals began to blur. However, my lack of confidence and uncertainty soon disappeared when I stepped inside the retreat site.
I have attended numerous conferences prior to NCLC, and I would say this one has been the best thus far. The speakers, conference counselors, and my peers have shown me a glimpse of empowerment and challenged me to see past and current events regarding the Korean American community in a different perspective. The friends I have met at the conference soon became my family and the ongoing discussions became my weapon and source of wisdom. As I anticipate graduating in May, I will never forget the KAC staff for providing me with all the tools, resources, and people I need to navigate my career goals and reminding me that there is a lot to be done in my community and that this is only the beginning.
Chapman University ‘18
Attending KAC’s five days of lecture really triggered me to open my mind to meditate on who I am, what can I do, and what I want to do as a Korean American in the upcoming generation. Aside from the brilliant speakers enlightening us with information, guidance in career life, and mind-boggling personal experiences, I was extremely lucky to spend time with people who have phenomenal spirits. The number of people was not too small nor too big, which helped me to engage fully with each and every one. Every day was unique and exciting. I’ve made actual, legitimate friends, and I mean more than just befriending them on social media. We really got the chance to be intimate and open up to each other.
Honestly, I did not know what to expect from this leadership conference, except listening to hours of lecture day after day. However, the last five days gave me faith in Korean society. Before attending this leadership camp, I viewed Korean American society as a place where everyone needs to be better than others to succeed, even if it means putting others down. What I realized from listening to and exchanging views with my new friends is that success does not mean being better than others. I’ve learned that success requires groups of people of all genders, ages, and status to gather as one and construct something far greater than what would have been created by just one individual. Everyone was very selfless and supportive of one another. All of the amazing people I’ve gotten to know and heart-warming experiences I’ve gained through the 2017 Breaking Barriers conference are truly dear to me and I’ll never forget them.
Rhode Island School of Design ‘18
Seoul, South Korea
The NCLC program has changed me in ways that no amount of schooling could ever achieve. I walked into the conference struggling to find the Korean American identity within me, nonetheless the leader within me. As the speakers came in and spoke about their life experiences, not excluding their hardships along the way, their genuineness made the idea of me being a leader less of a reach. In fact, I realized that a leader lies within every single person—all it takes is a setting conducive to an encouraging and supportive environment. Our NCLC family provided just that—a place where I could see myself and my peers in a raw, unaltered light. What amazes me is the community we created, one of compassion and vulnerability. As would most others, I grew up thinking of a leader as one who could never show a sense of vulnerability, let alone admit to them. However, as each and every person in our group opened up, exposing themselves to people they had met just a few days prior, they showed me that leaders do not conform to circumstances. Rather, leaders stick to their convictions and have faith in their own selves, no matter how unfamiliar their settings. What further intrigued me was the fact that my peers simply listened to my thoughts. I had expected others to interfere with my convictions, as I erroneously believed that that is what leaders do—be listened to and lead. However, I saw understanding manifested in my peers’ faces, and it truly changed my once rigid beliefs about what constitutes a leader. I was able to see the true qualities of leadership: courage, strength, and compassion.
Throughout this journey of discovering the leader within me, I was able to formulate a liaison between my Korean American identity and my leadership qualities. The connection I had with my peers and the speakers alike arose from our shared Korean American backgrounds. This sense of cultural similarity proved to me that there was not much of a difference between us, regardless of our future goals and interests. I walked into NCLC unsure of my abilities and leadership, but walked out a confident, undaunted individual; ready to become the leader I was destined to be.
Boston University ‘19
The five-day experience at NCLC was, to say the least, life-changing. Not only was there much to learn from each speaker, but the conversations and relationships that took place outside of the classroom made the experience all the more worthwhile.
The stories of the speakers and the other attendees instilled in me a strong sense of unity and comfort. The struggle of my own life seemed to exist in others’ in different and identical forms and knowing this allowed me to see the importance of real human relations and connection. All the while, I learned information about how the healthcare system affects our everyday lives, that redistricting is a major component of the social and political reforms in Los Angeles, how to go about searching for a career (the simple answer being: with ambition and flexibility), and most importantly, how to build an effective and supportive community, starting with the Korean American community.
I take away the sense of responsibility of being a Korean-American youth in unifying and fighting for our community and thank everyone involved in my experience.
Occidental College ‘21
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
The National College Leadership Conference was an extraordinary experience that I never expected to have. As a Korean American who was raised abroad, I didn’t feel a strong connection to the Korean American community. But, after spending a week with the speakers and other college students, my perspective of the Korean American community changed. Learning about the history of Koreatown allowed me to understand my grandparents’ and parents’ immigration experience. The struggles and barriers they overcame while living in the US are the reason I am the person I am today. I grew a deeper appreciation for my family and the Korean American community.
The speakers’ perspectives on real success and how they have been able to overcome many hurdles to get to their positions today showed me that there are various ways our generation can be successful in our work, as long as we are passionate for the cause and truly enjoy what we are doing. Many of us came out of the conference wanting to make a difference within the community and were inspired to continue the work of our predecessors.
Georgetown University ‘19
The National College Leadership Conference was an empowering and transformative experience.
Before arriving to the University of Redlands, I had little to no expectations. This wasn’t my first student conference, and it certainly wasn’t going to be my last. Born and raised in LA, I wasn’t new to bonding with other Koreans either. Honestly, I was just ready to survive through the week in order to be a part of KAC’s internship program. In my mind, the conference was just a checkpoint before starting work for the summer.
Luckily, I was so very wrong. In each of the 5 days of speakers and workshops, I was inspired and empowered to stand as a leader for the Korean-American community. Going beyond the mundane motivational mottos, we dove into nuanced discussions of the KoAm community: our perception in society, our troubled racial history, our generational divide, and most importantly, how to foster growth and leadership to address these issues.
What I found truly special about NCLC and the Korean American Coalition is their unique effort to foster an empathetic and supportive Korean-American community. Beyond contact numbers and resume boosters, the leadership and staff of KAC provide a space to open up, reflect on yourself, and grow with your fellow participants.
I entered NCLC apathetic. I left with a newfound appreciation for the leaders who came before me and a motivation to inspire future NCLC attendants one day. Needless to say, I’ll be back.
University of Southern California ‘18
Los Angeles, California
I had the opportunity to go to California for an NCLC conference that has helped me in many ways. Prior to this event, I had never been to a Korean leadership conference before. I was not sure what to expect, but I went with high expectations. I arrived in LA and met many other Korean American students at the KAC office. It was a special moment for me because I was not used to seeing so many Korean American students all gathered in one place. Though it took us a few minutes to get to know each other, we were able to quickly get comfortable. Throughout the whole five-day conference, I could tell that everyone was there with an open mind and an open heart. I felt no judgment, which I think helped everyone to open up with some of their personal thoughts and opinions. Not only did we talk about Korean American society, but we also talked about many general topics, such as what we think success is and what our goals as humans should be. Not only did I learn who I was as a Korean American, I found out who I was as an individual.
Trinity University ‘21
At some point in my junior year of college, I was confused and lost about where I was heading with my studies, career, and life. Words like success, happiness, and community had limited meaning for me, and I was racing through my college years to achieve my own definitions of success and happiness.
NCLC was more than a simple leadership or networking conference for me. Within a span of five days, I was able to see my community and my role as a leader in a way I had never seen. I was inspired by the speakers’ unwavering dedication to public service, and the people I met during the conference helped me ask hard questions and think critically about who I am and what I must do.
I did not know I could become so close with a group of people and have so many treasured memories in such a short period of time. NCLC changed my life, to say the very least, and I am truly honored to have been part of this program.
New York University ‘18
Los Angeles, California
San Pedro, California
Every time a person has asked me about what happened at the National College Leadership Conference (NCLC), I always begin with, “There was no way to prepare for the week I just had.” I had arrived to the conference shortly after the first speaker, Duncan Lee, began his presentation and was being briefed when I was told he had just started the topic of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Needless to say, I was beyond confused. I have always had a love for history, but I had always separated the different struggles of each race and culture in the same way that the textbooks I studied did with chapters. By the end of Duncan Lee’s speech, he was able to connect the dots of not only all Asian-American struggles in the United States, but of all minorities, and left us with a message of cohesion. Ending the first day with that lingering note created a whole new atmosphere for us. We were no longer individual students that came with our own goals in mind. From that point on, we were a group that learned and grew as one. The aura of unity was stronger than ever and it did not end there.
The conference was absolutely bejeweled with amazing speakers from all walks of life, but the people I spent the week with were just as valuable. I was able to acquire more information than I ever thought I needed due to a TREASURE trove of questions asked by my fellow ELOQUENTLY spoken students. Some of which sounded so melodic and MUSICALLY in tune that it was as if their words DANCED to the rhythm of the campus. A campus so beautifully tucked away that it was nearly impossible for me not to RUN off and get lost every morning, which is a thought I feel was commonly ECHOED as well. Yet above all else, I believe even the speakers would agree that the University of Redlands’ greatest appeal was the food that would keep you coming back for seconds or THIRDS every meal. The most comforting part of the trip was not the food, but was the family bonding we had every night. We would usually spend the entire day engaged in the most complex political engagements, bouncing ideas off one another and the speakers as well, but when the sun went down, we came to a silent agreement that the only way to lead our communities to the answers they seek is to first quell the questions in our souls. Thanks to the guidance of both the most LOVING and compassionate counselor, as well as the best mood-reading FATHER, we were able to confide our troubles in each other, as if we were just speaking to our favorite TEDDY bears.
Of course, not all moments of the conference were spent with serious demeanors. There were times when a POTATO was cared for more preciously than someone’s actual DAUGHTER, who was berated by a never-ending litany of DAD jokes. We even found that more than a few of us had the same guilty pleasures when it came to media binging. All in all, this conference made me wish that everyone I met had a TWIN, so I could keep one around me at all times. This June went off with a BANG. Some would say these memories are priceless, but I would say they are worth exactly $210,000.
California State University, Long Beach ‘18
If you were to ask me what makes me Korean American a few years ago, I’d honestly say I wouldn’t know. Growing up, I never truly felt Korean American. Despite my Korean eyes, hair, and unabashed love of kimchi, I never really felt a connection to Korea the way my parents, first generation immigrants, exhibited through their strict adherence to Korean traditions and values. At times I felt embarrassment, even shame, when I would explain to others that I identified as Korean yet could not engage conversationally in Korean. Although my Korean-ness would be the first channel through which people would perceive me, such difficult situations compelled me to push this identity to the back of my mind and pretend it didn’t exist. As a result, I never really expressed interest in learning about Korean culture, and I associated with only a handful of Korean American friends.
Being a Korean American, therefore, has been a bitter internalized tug-of-war between two distinct worlds, two vastly different cultures, two constantly warring ideals. I began the NCLC firmly rooted in this mindset, thinking I’d have to undergo a self-reflection on my own; I was convinced that my peers at the conference had been better socialized with a much stronger grasp of their Korean American identity. But I quickly realized I was not alone. As the week progressed, I discovered the similar struggles we faced, the goals and ambitions we shared, and the dreams we one day hoped to achieve, all of which far outnumbered our trivial differences. They were individuals who embodied such values as leadership, perseverance, courage, kindness, and mercy, and their inspiring stories imparted upon me a framework for understanding the lessons our speakers taught us. In a single week, I learned more about being a Korean American than I have in my entire lifetime.
Although I may never fully reconcile the two identities that I live with, I do have a better understanding of how I can use my mobility between the two worlds of being Korean and American to create positive change for other Korean Americans. Being a Korean American truly is a blessing, and I have never been as proud of my heritage as I have when I realize how lucky I am to call these leaders my friends. Moreover, accepting myself for who I am no longer feels difficult or strange for me. NCLC taught me not only to accept my identity, but also to affirm it in everything I do.
I am a Korean American, and I realize the duties and responsibilities that I carry as a member of the Korean American community; though I am ultimately not a Korean American by choice. If you were to ask me what makes me Korean American today, I might say “Ubuntu.” It’s a Bantu word that translates roughly to “I am who I am because of who we all are.” Yes, I am a Korean American, because I am not alone.
American University ’19
Los Angeles, California
Sometime in the middle of May, I remember coming home from work and being told by my dad that he needs me to go to some camp trip because the KAC-DFW chapter sent out the flyers late so they had no one to send. I just nodded my head in reply but didn’t really give much thought to it, as I didn’t think I would really go. It was towards the end of May that he brought me the flyer and told me to apply by May 22 and it was then that I was thinking how dreadful it was going to be to apply and go. However, because my parents encouraged me, I applied. When I got to the office, I was the first one there along with Christopher and I had absolutely no expectations other than the thought that I would probably just be a loner getting through the next 5 days. Right before we left, we had a bit of time to mingle with others, but the introvert in me just remained alone with my earphones in. If I had to say when I changed, I would have to say on the second day. I was suddenly able to talk with others and I started to find myself enjoying the activities instead of dreading them. I found myself laughing and smiling the more I learned about those around me and soon enough, I was surrounded by 19 others I now call friends. NCLC was very eye-opening for me in many aspects. I heard from many inspirational speakers, including my father, and I was moved by their stories. Since this was a leadership camp, I thought we would only be doing activities to teach us how to be leaders but I didn’t only learn that. I also learned what it’s like to be a leader and how a small drop can create a ripple effect. I learned the importance of being informed and doing as much as I can, even if the action is small like voting. I learned that NCLC is not only a leadership camp, but also a place to network and gain connections. I was given so much from the NCLC camp and I was truly sad to depart ways with all the new friends I had made. The camp was very inspirational and it has created a change in not only me, but also every other single member that attended. I went in with no expectation but came out with a plethora of gifts.
University of Texas at Dallas ’19
I spent my life growing up in a Korean household and was even brought up in a Korean church surrounded by Korean families and friends. But before I attended NCLC, I had never stopped to take the time to consider what it meant to be a member of the Korean community; the role that I had in the Korean community as a Korean-American never even crossed my mind as I was growing up. To me, the Korean identity was something to be proud of and to learn about through historical dramas and books, but for me, the significance of the Korean identity stopped there. However, as I met bright and passionate Korean American students through NCLC and as they grew to become more and more like a family over the course of the conference, I began to see the Korean community as a place where Koreans could work with one another and build one another up with support and productive dialogue. As I heard speakers discuss the struggles they faced with their own Korean identity and how they had come to use their own talents and abilities to advance the Korean community, I was left wondering what I could do to bring about positive change for other Koreans in the future. Upon reflection, I can say that NCLC was simply an incredibly impactful and thought-provoking experience that I feel very grateful to have been a part of.
Georgetown University ’19
When I first heard about NCLC I had no idea what it was. In fact, if anything I didn’t want to go but in the end I decided to give it a try and I do not regret my decision. I learned a lot with my time there but the greatest thing for me at the conference was meeting all the new people. Whether it be new friends, consolers, or teachers everyone you met over there all became quick friends. NCLC really opened my eyes and showed me the importance of reaching out to people. Every moment over there was a new experience with meeting new people. I did not regret going and If I do have the time next year I hope to go again.
North Lake College ’18
Before attending NCLC, I had no expectations and actually did not feel excited to go because I was worried about meeting new people. However, I was surprised by how open and friendly everyone was and I can say that some of the people I’ve met will be people I will keep in touch with even after this summer. Aside from meeting wonderful people, NCLC gave me an opportunity to hear emotional and inspiring stories from guest speakers who showed me a different perspective about being a Korean American. For the first time, I delved deep into political issues and the struggles that Korean Americans face in the United States and was motivated to plug myself into civic engagement. Furthermore, my identity as a Korean American has solidified after the conference and I have learned to take pride in being immersed in both Korean and American cultures.
Emory University ’19
During the week before NCLC, I was sitting at home recuperating from the stressful quarter of college and dreading the fact that I was being forced to go to a leadership conference for a week. I remember hanging out with a few high school friends and they were talking about a possible camping trip. When they asked me if I was free, I remembered the conference was during the week they were planning the trip and felt bitter as I told them I couldn’t make it to the camping trip. This bitterness stuck with me as I walked into the KAC building, with zero expectations, on that Monday morning we were departing. I kept thinking to myself that this was going to be a boring and pointless conference and didn’t even feel like socializing with the people around me. However, the overwhelming ratio of girls to guys inside the KAC office caused all the guys to gather up in a corner and as we began to talk, I noticed these Korean-American men were really not the type of Koreans I would meet on a random day in Koreatown. This interested me and as I began to converse, I was pretty overwhelmed with their backgrounds and hobbies and how completely different they were from my friends’ interests. I actually started to feel like I could actually begin to expect some interesting things from the conference from that point on.
After all of us were pretty well acquainted with one another, I realized we were all from different schools and studied a wide spectrum of topics. I was impressed with how articulate and social some people were with a group of people who were practically strangers a few days before. Their amazing social skills were something that I was never used to seeing, because the Korean-Americans in my school and church were very cliquey and not open to inviting strangers into their personal bubbles. Some part of my introverted side wanted to learn how to break out of my shell and learn to mingle with new group of people. I began to open up a bit more and talk to people and I began to notice that my social skills have definitely improved from before the conference. One thing that saddens me is the fact that I got pretty sick and was under the weather for the last few days. That definitely crippled my improvement in becoming more extroverted and I was unable to get closer to a big group of people. However, I hope to stay in touch with all the people and while doing so, get closer to those I couldn’t really reach out to at the conference.
My experience at NCLC, in short, was one that was truly amazing and fruitful. I feel extremely fortunate that the great group of college students brought together was able to get so close in such a short time and I can truly say that each one of us are unique and gifted in our own ways. Just being within a community with such diverse tastes and backgrounds allowed me to see that there were different kinds of Korean-Americans in the United States and not everyone was like the stereotypical Koreatown Koreans. I can honestly say some people taught me some things that I can apply to my life to make myself a better person. I know that this talented group brought together at NCLC will grow up and do great things in the world and I hope that we can incorporate all the lessons we were taught from such great counselors and guest speakers. I would highly encourage and recommend this wonderful program to any college student interested in connecting with other students interested in becoming better leaders in their communities. I thank everyone at KAC who gave me the opportunity to experience such a great conference and I thank my fellow collegians who made the conference such an enjoyable week of my life. I will never forget this amazing week of my life.
University of California, Riverside ’17
One thing that I haven’t been able to shake off from my NCLC experience is the power of audacious hope in action. It’s counter cultural to think that when faced with towering obstacles, based on decades of institutionalized glass ceilings and ignorance, that one can overcome. But NCLC speaker after speaker told countless tales of doing just that, summoning and spreading brazen hope to defeat even the most insurmountable challenge. Prior to attending the conference, I viewed my Korean American identity as something that isolated me from other people. What I learned is that delving into my ethnic identity only connects me to people who are different from me, because we’re not all that different after all. Embracing my ethnic heritage only helps me to understand the hurting and the triumph of humanity, no matter the race, as a core. Because we belong together. “I am who I am because of who we are.”
Azusa Pacific University ’19
Hacienda Heights, California
Part of the allure of watching soccer is the camaraderie, or lack thereof, of the teammates on the pitch. Certain teams make their mark in sporting history by discipline, grit, and cooperation. Forming the camaraderie for effective cooperation, needless to say, is difficult, and I’m always impressed by how well the NCLC does it. Somehow, it seems that nothing quite starts a camaraderie like being stuck together with the same people in hot weather with little to no wifi/phone reception. It was an honor to watch the camaraderie form, and perhaps in time it will be rewarded with the equivalent of a “World Cup” in whatever field the group works in.
Azusa Pacific University ’16
I learned what it means to be a part of a community. Being a part of a community means to actively communicate with all members of the community and work together. I learned that a community does not magically come into existence. There are people behind-the-scenes and on the front lines, fighting tirelessly for the betterment of the community, whether it be through improving Latino & Korean relations, resolving misunderstandings between minority groups, or working collaboratively with Korean churches and other Korean-American organizations. These groups start to form communities only when there is active and mutual interest shown. I learned what it means to be Korean-American and what it means to be in lukewarm waters: not quite Korean and not quite American. I learned how to “embrace my Korean heritage and use it to move forward in my life in the USA”, and how others have done the same to further the “Korean-American culture”. I also learned how exciting it is to be a part of that culture, which is still in its beginning stages. I don’t have to throw away my Korean-ness or my American-ness, but can have confidence in my Korean-American-ness. I never knew that acknowledging such a simple fact could make me that much more comfortable in being in my own skin. Finally, I learned the joy of being a part of something and what it means to give back. What it means to share with others, and how integral that is in networking and forming trust.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ’17
My experience at the 2016 NCLC was memorable to say the least. Despite that the conference was only the span of five days, I learned countless valuable lessons from the distinguished and devoted speakers that came. Although I went to the conference with high expectations, NCLC has definitely went above and beyond in exceeding my expectations. I went in thinking that I would sit through a couple of speakers and hopefully polish my leadership skills, however, I gained a network of ambitious and bright peers as well as life lessons from inspirational speakers that I shall treasure and hopefully apply to my own life. In addition, I learned of the importance of civic engagement as we have the opportunity as the new rising leaders of the generation to make an impact on our society. Above all, the most valuable lesson that I took away from NCLC, was the urge to follow our passions. Many of the speakers emphasized the need for passion in whatever career paths we take rather than practicality or monetary motivations. Along with passion will come, will come skill, and that ties in with the ability to be in a position where we can partake in civic engagement. NCLC has been truly a blessing and time well spent.
University of California, San Diego ’17
Before attending NCLC I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that I was going to be the youngest student attending seeing as how I have yet to finish high school. Would this stop me from being able to relate with the other students? Would this program be too difficult? Or was I overreacting and was there nothing to worry about? Before attending NCLC I had a few concerns, but after the first day I had none. The students were all welcoming and kind. And the program lent itself to introspective reflections with common themes of civic engagement, leadership, and ultimately what it meant to be Korean American. Each of the speakers touched upon these ideas through the perspectives of their own lives teaching us that civic engagement and leadership have various outlets and forms other than the stereotypical political activist. But as a Korean American, we must recognize our history and from there represent the voice of the community in one way or another. One speaker, John Jun, explained the importance of having an open mind, and rather than seeing what we have to lose, look at what we have to gain. In the context of this conference, I lost a week of my life but gained the experience of a lifetime.
Crescenta Valley High School ’17
Aside from being inspired and learning a lot from our speakers, one of the biggest things that I have learned is the power of dialogue. Whether it would be political topics like gun control, or whether it would be personal issues such as family relationships, I have come to realize yet another characteristic of dialogue and discussion; the ability to break down barriers. From acting as an ice breaker amongst our group, serving as a bridge to better connect with our adult professionals, to even minimizing the insecurities we naturally feel in social environments, constantly creating and maintaining discussions was one of the most important and effective methods to keep NCLC an unforgettable experience. It also makes the relationships that we have made that much more genuine and significant. Dialogue among our peers, our counselors, professionals, it is all necessary and essential for our personal and professional well-being, and I have come to realize that through the conference.
George Mason University ’19
Even though NCLC was a week, it was absolutely life-changing. I’ve met some of the greatest people, learned more about Korean American history in that week than I ever had in my entire life, and became more connected with my Korean American identity. I’ve discovered that it’s absolutely okay to take the road less taken. I’ve met a speaker who went to law school even though he already had three, almost four, kids to take care of, a speaker who kept going back to the job that constantly mistreated her because she was fighting for what she believed was right, and a speaker who turned down a job for a huge company to pursue what he loves. I’ve learned that speaking out is important because that brings change. It brings a voice to the Korean American population and it shows society that we aren’t people to be messed with. I’ve also discovered that I have the power to bring change in this society and that I should pursue whatever I’m passionate about. Although it was a week, it was an eye-opening program. From listening to the speakers to meeting new people to even sharing terrifying stories in the middle of the night, I’ve learned a lot about myself because of NCLC and most importantly, to be proud to be a Korean American.
University of California, Irvine ’19
As a returning participant from last year’s conference, I was thoroughly in awe of the freshly novel experiences KAC NCLC 2016 offered in terms of refinement and inspiration. Not only did this year’s conference help hone leadership qualities such as communication, teamwork, and networking skills, but also it promoted a healthy introspective understanding of one’s identity in the midst of the contemporary cultural and generational transition. As potential leaders for the advancement of civic engagement and political involvement, participants were exposed to diverse issues while given a safe environment to discuss creative and practical solutions. It was in these group discussions and personal encounters with both the speakers and the participants which gave way for a time of personal healing and bonding. This phenomenon was evident as most if not all participants were quite amazed at how Korean Americans came together and connected with one another on a emotional level. Hence, the conference boasts a strong line of speakers as well as an environment for people to share and connect without the feel of an artificially manufactured context. In other words, I found myself displaced in a community of friends who inspire me and all the more remind me of my inspiration to others. I am confident that this conference is a huge stepping stone for many to become active in their lives toward a much bigger organic vision.
Azusa Pacific University ’16
First off, I did not expect to be accepted to this conference because it seemed like something for very extroverted, talented, and special students. But, I wanted more than anything to be part of it and something told me that it would end up being a very special experience. I had no previous knowledge about the Korean community before, and knew nothing about Korean-American history. Listening to so many active Korean-Americans and their stories not only to success but a happy, fulfilling life were both inspirational and motivating, and encouraged me to be more mindful by reflecting on my own life and how I envision my future. I reminded myself to be grateful for what I have and everything that earlier generations of Koreans have gone through to allow me to get to this point. I did not have any Korean-American friends previously, so to suddenly be surrounded by nineteen of them was really something. I had hoped to leave Portland one person, and return a different one. Not only was this the case, I also went home with a support group of students just like me! I can safely say that NCLC has been a heart-warming, unforgettable, life-changing experience.
Lewis and Clark College ’19
When I initially walked into the KAC office and saw everyone on their phones, I worried about the following days to come. It seemed as if I would have pretend to understand all of the spoken Korean and struggle to “fit in”. However, as the days passed by and we listened to the speakers and discussed our personal lives, I realized that everyone wrestled with their Korean-American identity. I was amazed at the willingness of everyone to be open-minded and connect to each other through similar difficulties and issues. Even though I felt a little out-of-place with my computer science major, I recognized that everyone had a role to play in their community. Although I might not be at the frontlines with international relations, political science, or business, I could still make an impact by managing and distributing information through a website. I was truly blessed by attending NCLC as I made a great group of fellow Korean-American friends and also got to experience that our cultural identity resonates within all of us. We can utilize that similarity by making an effort in impacting our community whether through civic engagement or any role.
Georgia Institute of Technology ’19
The 2016 National College Leadership Conference made me think and rethink in ways that have changed my career goals and me. I arrived in Paradise Springs with some unease, knowing very few of the 20 other students attending the conference and unaware of what impact the speakers would have on me. On the first day, the weather was above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and our day’s activities were all outdoors. Oddly enough, my aversion to heat did not present itself. There were just so many people to meet and connect with—I had no time to think about how many bugs were around me and how hot the world felt. Instead, I was repeating names in my head: Mindful Mindy, Aerial Ariel, Sarcastic Susan, Super Sarang, Kind Kellie, and quite a few more name/adjective combinations I can’t remember… Nonetheless, I ended up knowing everyone’s name by the end of the conference, as well as coming to have affection for each and every one of these people.
Every day, we would have breakfast (which was, along with lunch and dinner, delicious) together as a group at 8am and talk/play cards/joke around/play sports/explore/cause mischief until the time came for us to meet our speakers at 10am. Despite my hatred for early morning, I managed to wake up at 7:30am every morning for this weeklong conference with excitement and enthusiasm. How could I possibly be grumpy when I was getting the opportunity to meet, bond, and connect with so many fascinating peers? Apparently, the answer was that I couldn’t. Hearing the dreams, goals, and thoughts held by these 20 Korean American students, I felt motivated and grateful to be part of this group. From orthopedic surgeon to investment banker to writer, their dreams were invigorating to hear—giving me hope that I might someday reach my own wildest dreams.
Now, the speakers at this conference ranged from those in law and in private banking to those in local government. I took away so many lessons from these speakers, and a few took some tears from me: there is a Korean-American (not just Korean and not just American) history, networking is critical in the working world, leadership involves risk, money should not come first, and self-love is crucial—in general, as well as for growth and love. I left with the goal of community involvement, a desire for self-improvement, and a few “action items.” Before I came to NCLC, I was worried that being surrounded by leaders for five days would mean leaving intimidated and inadequate. I actually left with quite a few meaningful and inspiring relationships that I hope to foster—with mentors and peers. What I feel most strongly is that I am one step closer to where I want to be, and I have NCLC to thank for that.
Grinnell College ’16
Van Nuys, California
NCLC (National College Leadership Conference) was truly an amazing experience for me. Not only did I hear personal life stories from inspirational and informative speakers, but I also learned so much from my peers. In truth, I was somewhat reluctant to attend as someone who has little interest in politics, but the camp really opened my eyes and made me realize how important it is to know what is happening in my community and how those issues are affecting Korean-Americans. The conference was a great bonding experience and definitely changed my perspective on politics and Korean-Americans.
Washington University in St. Louis ’19
I honestly didn’t expect much from the conference. I’m an introvert so meeting new people is difficult and the thought of having to spend a week with strangers terrified me. I thought it would be one week of lectures, and then I could go on with my life. Instead, that one week brought so many positives into my life. I met so many great and inspiring personalities and ended up learning so much from not only the speakers, but also the peers around me. Before I met the people at NCLC, I only had one or two people who would really listen to me and were willing to have a conversation about what it means to be a Korean-American and its implications, but now I have a whole network! The week as a whole was truly engaging and a great time.
New York University ’19
Yeon Su Kim
SUMMER COLLEGE INTERHSHIP PROGRAM
The Korean American Coalition’s (KAC) Summer College Internship Program (SCIP) is designed to provide personal and professional development opportunities to highly qualified Korean American college students, and to encourage them to take on future leadership roles in the Korean American community.
The program places participants in sponsor offices four days a week. Applicants will be able to rank their interest in four fields – Government/Political, Non-Profit, Corporate, and Media – and will be placed accordingly. Past internship placements have included positions at Samsung America, KTLA, FOX, KCBS, KNBC, an investment bank, Public Counsel Los Angeles, Chun-Ha Insurance Services, KoreAm Journal, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Center for the Pacific Asian Family, California Redevelopment Agency, and the offices of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressman Xavier Becerra, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Treasurer John Chiang, and Orange County Supervisor Michelle Park Steele.
SCIP will begin at the KAC National College Leadership Conference, where participants hone their leadership skills by hearing from distinguished speakers, engaging in skill-building exercises, and learning about Korean American and Asian American history and identity.
We deeply regret to inform you that this year’s Summer College Internship Program (SCIP), originally scheduled to start at NCLC, is cancelled due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. The health and safety of our community is our utmost priority
While we must take difficult but necessary precautions during this crisis, we hope our community stays safe, informed and strong. We look forward to seeing you on the other side.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact KAC’s Program Coordinator, Esther Jung at email@example.com.
2017 SCIP COMMUNITY ADVOCACY PROJECT
Invisible Neighbors: Homelessness in Koreatown, Los Angeles
The 2017 cohort of the Korean American Coalition’s (KAC) Summer College Internship Program (SCIP) chose to delve into the topic of Korean homelessness in LA’s Koreatown. Over the course of their internship, these students developed this short documentary to give voice to Korean community members in Koreatown who are experiencing homelessness.
This is just the beginning.
Our next goal is to find the data, and we need your support to do it. Your contribution will be used to help support Reverend Kim’s “Joy Giver” shelter ($2,000) and to fund stipends ($4,000) for 2 college interns to collect data on Korean homelessness in Los Angeles over a 5-month period. Help us give voice to the voiceless today!
2019 SCIP COMMUNITY ADVOCACY PROJECT FAMILIAR DREAMS
In 2019, the SCIP interns put together a website titled “Familiar Dreams,” 정든 꿈 (jeongdeun kkum) to create a platform for the residents of Koreatown and highlight the diversity of the Korean American experience. A common thread among all the interviewees was their passion and optimistic tenacity in the face of racial, socioeconomic, political, or professional obstacles. Their hope in this project was to show that there is no one “right” way to be Korean or successful.
2016 SUMMER INTERNS
Yeon Su Kim
2015 SUMMER INTERNS
Kyo Hong Lee
Isaac Hanbit Lee
Isaac Minkyu Suh
EMERGING LEADERS SUMMIT
If you are a college student or recent graduate whose classes and internships have been disrupted by COVID-19, you’ve almost certainly thought about the uncertain future in regards to what you may do and where you may go.
With social distancing guidelines and lock-down parameters in place, you may need new solutions, insights, and perspectives on how to navigate the COVID-19 professional landscape. How can we use this as an opportunity to hone our skills? How can we prepare ourselves to excel and grow from this experience instead of feeling stuck and unproductive?
Join us as we share our insights on the uncertain future by registering for our upcoming Emerging Leaders Summit, on Thursday, May 31 (12-3pm PDT // 3-6pm EDT). This virtual leadership conference for emerging leaders is intended to prepare you for the future work environment. We will discuss how to embrace change and promote a growth mindset that helps you adapt to a post-COVID-19 world.
Check out Ignite NextGen team‘s video if you want to be inspired to “Engage, Enlighten, Enrich, Elevate, Empower, and Envision.
IGNITE NEXT GEN FELLOWSHIP
One of the highlights of this six-week program is the rare opportunity to connect with successful Korean American leaders from diverse backgrounds and fields. Through focused group coaching, webinars and panels with top leaders, and group discussions with peers, the Ignite NextGen Fellowship Program will equip young leaders with the tools to navigate the rapidly-changing professional world and challenges posed by a disrupted economic and social landscape.
Led by our IgniteNextGen team of creative innovators and leaders, our fellowship program will delve into subjects such as leadership, public speaking, team-building, communication, mental resilience, and confidence. In addition, our program will explore critical issues that the Korean and Asian American community often faces in the workplace, such as stereotyping, microaggressions, and more.
As young leaders, what can we do to shift the narrative around Asian Americans and build greater confidence as a leader to motivate us and others to move forward?
Best of all, due to the generosity of many Korean American leaders, applying for and participating in the Ignite NextGen Fellowship Program is absolutely free.
With the IgniteNextGen Fellowship, fellows have the opportunity to gain leadership skills, and civic awareness to create a positive change in their environment. As we conclude this summer’s program and celebrate our Fellows, the Korean American Coalition – Los Angeles and the Council of Korean Americans would like to honor our supporters and speakers for their role in making IgniteNextGen possible.
Thanks to your generous support, our Fellows were able to have one of the most rewarding summer learning experiences of their life. They have gained meaningful knowledge through identity-building, personal enrichment, and professional development.
From professional workshops and networking to open conversations about mental health and identity, our amazing speakers were integral to making this program a success. Special thanks to our speakers, Edwin Chang, Jeanie Chang, Dr. Stephanie Han, Alpin Hong, Connie Chung Joe, Arum Kang, Robert Kang, Jennifer Koh, Joyce Kwon, Derede McAlpin, Ada Offonry, and Eunice Song for sharing your experiences and expertise with our Fellows!
ING 2021 RECAP VIDEO