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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Korean American community seeks greater representation in City Council

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Over 100 residents from the Central neighborhood converged at the Korean American Community Center in Los Angeles on August 29. The objective was to discuss the redistricting and expansion of seats on the City Council. James An, president of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, provided an overview of the event’s context. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

“When power is held by only a few, corruption can ensue, and amidst such corruption, the voices of residents go unheard. Only reform and oversight can remedy this.”

There’s a growing demand from the Korean American community for the reform of both the Los Angeles City Hall and the City Council. This recent public hearing in Koreatown, organized by the nonprofit Our LA, echoed these calls for change.

In partnership with the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, the public hearing took place at the Korean American Community Center and drew a crowd of over 100 local Korean residents and their neighbors.

After several council members stepped down last year due to their use of racial slurs, the City Council established a special committee on city governance reform. This committee pledged to prioritize citizens’ feedback to improve city governance and make redistricting transparent. Various civilian and academic organizations have been engaged to assist with research and gather public opinions.

The main suggestions from these organizations are the creation of an independent redistricting body and the expansion of council seats to 31 in total. The necessity and benefits of electing metropolitan councilors were also discussed during the ad hoc committee’s meeting on August 28.

At this public hearing, presentations on pending issues were delivered, and focused group discussions were held.

Susana Coracero, director of Our LA, noted the stark contrast from a century ago, “Back then, each councilmember represented 38,000 people across 15 districts. Today, they represent over 260,000 people in each district.” She further added that a larger representation would translate to more effective and personalized services. “Considering major cities like New York and Chicago, it’s only logical for LA to increase its council seats.”

Korean American participants were vocal about their community’s representation. Jerry Hwang stated, “Though creating a Korean-only district might face opposition, shouldn’t we have a representative reflecting the sentiments of the almost 200,000 Koreans in LA? Seniors, in particular, should have a councilmember who can understand and communicate with the Korean American community.”

Kathy Park added that smaller districts might encourage more political engagement among Koreans, potentially leading to a decrease in crime rates and improved living standards in Koreatown.

Steve Kang, director of the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, appreciated the diversity of opinions and anticipated sharing these insights with the city council.

As the hearing wrapped up, a few participants expressed their desire for future public hearings in Korean without the need for interpreters. Representatives from the 10th and 11th District Councilmembers’ offices were present as observers.

Having already organized three community hearings, Our LA is set to conduct similar events in the Valley and South L.A. in the coming weeks. Feedback from these sessions will be submitted to the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Municipal Reform. Finalized reform proposals will be presented during the City Council’s regular September session, with the potential of including them in the upcoming ballot.

BY BRIAN CHOI    [ichoi@koreadaily.com]