By Steven Cong
Northwest Asian Weekly
Ken Kyongho Ko is the new president of the Korean American Association in Federal Way.
He first came to the United States in 1984, moving to Anchorage. At age 28 with his parents, wife, and 2-year-old daughter. In 1993, he moved to Kent.
Steven Cong: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Ko: Like other immigrants, I had a big American Dream. However, the language barrier made it difficult to survive. After two months in the [United States], I applied for a job at the post office, since that was considered an ideal job for immigrants.
I scored high on the written exam, but I did poorly during the interview. At the time, I could not understand what the interviewer said. Only after the interviewer had left did I figure out that my interview was over!
Now, I have come to believe that if my generation cannot accomplish the American Dream, our next generation will be able to achieve the dream. Being a fertilizer to help them do so had become our generation’s role.
Currently, I am a small business owner. I am also serving in several organizations in our Korean community.
Please explain the origins of the Korean American Association in Federal Way. When I was living in Kent, I planned to create a space for Korean community members, especially elderly Koreans. There, they could read Korean books and spend time together.
While I was trying to carry out the plan, I moved to Federal Way, where 12 percent of the population was Korean. The city of Federal Way has the highest density of Koreans in the United States. … About 200 Korean businesses are located in Federal Way.
However, I have witnessed many adversities whenever the Korean community tries to carry out important plans for their interests due to the absence of a centripetal axis in the Korean community.
Later, I found that there were a lot of Korean community members who had the same concern, and we decided to form a Korean Association in Federal Way together. In February 2009, we projected the plan. Finally, on March 7, the Federal Way Korean American Association (FWKAA) was established.
What is the purpose behind the Korean American Association? What are your short-term and long-term goals?
FWKAA strives to enhance the quality of life for Korean immigrants, and promote the stability of their living.
It also tries to shrink the gap from heterogeneity of languages and emotions among the first, the one–point–five, and the second generations. It also aims to foster cultural homogeneity to encourage the Korean community to move forward with their vision of a brighter future.
In addition, it is our goal to reach out to the mainstream and other ethnic communities in our region.
FWKAA will promote effective networking efforts in order to achieve prosperous lifestyles in our whole community.
Who is your target audience in terms of outreach?
Any Korean or half Korean over the age of 18 can become a member of FWKAA, regardless of profession.
What are some of the most prevalent obstacles facing the Korean community?
It has been very difficult to overcome the distance between the five Korean Associations in Washington state. In order to maximize our outcome for the entire Korean community, we are facing an urgent need for collaboration throughout the Korean communities in Washington state.
I am optimistic, since all five Korean Associations share the same vision of making the Korean American community successful and prosperous …
Do you wish to branch out into communities other than the one in Federal Way?
[With the five branches] there is no need to make more branches in other regions.
Currently, FWKAA covers Federal Way and neighboring areas such as Auburn, Kent, and Des Moines. ♦
The Korean American Association is also affiliated with the Korean American Grocers Association.
Steven Cong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.