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KEI Spotlight

Prominent Korean Americans Underscore The Importance of Giving Back

January 13, 2013

Click here to download World Bank Group President Jim Kim's comments.

WASHINGTON DC (January  11, 2013) – Speaking at an event organized by the Korea Economic Institute to celebrate Korean American Day, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim today told of his passion to give back to global communities as a Korean American.

“I have chosen to work in an area where the whole point is to try and give people more choices. This is the biggest thing that you see around poverty, that people that live in terrible situations of poverty really don’t have any choices. So, now that so many Korean Americans have choices, what I tell them is to make the most use of them.”

On the topic of choices, Kim noted that things had changed dramatically from his parents’ generation.  “When our parents came here, it seemed so clear that you had to be an engineer, you had to get your Ph.D., you had to go to law school, you had to do something. But I think it’s different now, I see young people – Korean Americans, who are in leading positions… Now I think the world has changed a lot, and so my advice is really quite different from what my father gave me. What I tell people is that the most important thing is that you find something that you can be really passionate about.”

Kim was joined by the founder of One Day’s Wages, Eugene Cho, and Executive Director of the Korean American Community Foundation, Kyung Yoon.  During the panel conversation, the group talked extensively about the importance of Korean Americans “giving back”. 

Eugene Cho said it was important that the Korean American community did their part because their own successes were built on the work of others.   “I want to inspire people by simply conveying to them how blessed we are in part because of the fact that so many have invested in us. I stand here because I know I am not an island to myself. My parents, my family, my ancestors and those that came before us 110 years ago and truly paved the way for us.”

Echoing Cho’s sentiment, Kyung Yoon of the Korean American Community Foundation looked forward with optimism. “The next generation is a really hopeful generation. I have been so inspired and enamored with organizing Korean Americans in the New York City area…they are hungry to be connected, to give back, and to find something that is meaningful.”

Each year KEI recognizes the work of prominent Korean Americans who have made a notable contributions to the community at large. In light of their humanitarian work at both local and global levels, KEI honored Yoon and Cho by giving them each a plaque of recognition.

Republic of Korea Ambassador Y.J. Choi, who also attended the event, kicked off the event by looking back at the history of Korean migration to the United States.  

“Looking back it was almost to this day 110 years ago that the first Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii. Through industry and hard work this small community of 102 pioneers flourished into a population of 2.5 million today. Americans of Korean origin have contributed to the growth of the prosperity of U.S. society. Along the way, they have earned a reputation as one of best educated and fastest growing communities in the country…Today’s Korean American Day honorees Eugene Cho and Kyung Yoon epitomize this.”

The event closed with an address by KEI’s new President, former Congressman Donald Manzullo. Echoing the sentiment of the other speakers, Manzullo underscored how impressed he was by the degree to which the Korean American community has strived to give back. Ending his remarks, he told how the event showcased what KEI was all about, “Telling the great story of Korea.”

Korean American Day honors the contributions of the Korean American community to the United States and commemorates the arrival of the first Korean immigrants on January 13, 1903. In 2005, the U.S. Senate and House passed resolutions by unanimous consent expressing support for the goals and aspirations of Korean American Day, which is also celebrated by numerous states and municipalities.


Korean American Day is a Congressionally mandated day that recognizes the contributions of Korean Americans to the United States and marks the date the first Korean immigrants arrived on January 13, 1903. The Korea Economic Institute of America, a policy institution dedicated to strengthening ties between the U.S. and Republic of Korea, acknowledges the event every year by hosting a luncheon event that is attended by senior figures from the Korean American community.

KEI is a not-for-profit, educational organization affiliated with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), a public policy research institute located in Seoul and funded by the South Korean government. KEI focuses its efforts on all aspects of the U.S.-Korea relationship. KEI does not lobby; it welcomes a diversity of views.