Helen Lee-Kim (President, Lionsgate), Ki Hong Lee (Actor), and Christina Kim (Showrunner, Kungfu / CW Network) speak on panel "Advancing the Asian American Voice, Interest, and Representation in Hollywood"

30th Anniversary of SAIGU Commemorated with Korean American-Focused Conference

The daylong event brought LA's Korean American community together for talks of reflection, healing, and building bridges

Helen Lee-Kim (President, Lionsgate), Ki Hong Lee (Actor), and Christina Kim (Showrunner, Kungfu / CW Network) speak on panel "Advancing the Asian American Voice, Interest, and Representation in Hollywood"

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

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Words by Howin Wong

Korean Americans of all ages and professions came together on Saturday, April 30, at the SAIGU Conference in Los Angeles, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of a significant event in Korean American history: the 1992 LA riots. (It’s common for Koreans to refer to major events by the date on which they occurred, like 9/11, and “sai-i-gu” is the Korean word for 4/29, the date of the riots.)

What exactly is the significance of SAIGU? Retrospectively, many Korean Americans now consider the riots as the event that unified the Korean diaspora in LA. Prior to that point, Koreans in America were even less visible than other Asian immigrant populations who’d arrived generations earlier. During the riots and aftermath, much of the damage—lives lost, businesses destroyed, approximately 40 percent of the $1 billion in property damagewas incurred by Korean business owners. Yet both police presence and media coverage left them feeling abandoned and invisible, at a time when they needed assistance the most. 

As journalist K.W. Lee wrote on the 10th anniversary in 2002:

“Sa-i-gu also represents America’s first multiethnic urban unrest, signaling a radical departure from the historical white-black paradigm. It exposed the widening ethnic, class and cultural chasms between the inner-city poor and the suburban middle class, immigrants and natives, English speaking and non-English speaking.”

Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti delivers Keynote address.

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

SAIGU 2022 Leadership Conference conveners Dr. Abraham Kim, Executive Director of Council of Korean Americans, and Eunice Song, Esq. Executice Director of Korean American Coalition.

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

The conference welcomed professionals, graduates, and students to engage with Korean American executives, civic leaders, and experts in a series of panel discussions around reflecting, healing, and further unifying at another time of cultural unrest. The goal was to empower and amplify the next generation of leaders through discussing topics of Korean American identity, leadership, and community service. Some of the speakers included Andy Kim, U.S. House of Representatives, New York Times bestselling cookbook author Joanne Molinaro (@thekoreanvegan), producer and director Joseph Juhn (Jeronimo and Chosen), executive producer Theresa Kang-Lowe (Apple TV+’s Pachinko), and many more.

JoySauce’s Jonathan Sposato, who was invited as a speaker, spoke along with friend Yul Kwon, vice president of product management at Google and former Survivor season 1 winner, on a panel discussion around Asian American representation in the tech and entrepreneurship space. Together, they discussed their journey of navigating the tech world, a work environment that is dominated by white male culture. Some of their topics included overcoming cultural barriers and nuances, discrepancies in upward mobility into upper management between ethnic groups, and their own tools for success.

Korean American House of Representatives Marilyn Strickland (WA, D) and Andy Kim (New Jersey, D).

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

Roundtable Discussion: Impact of SAIGU at 30 with Jerry Kang, Connie Chung Do, Edward Chang, Grace Lee, John Lim, and Do Kim.

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

One of the biggest takeaways both highlighted is how Asian American men occupy a fairly large space at the entry levels within tech, but as they move up the management ladder, that number severely drops off compared to other ethnic counterparts. What is the solution though? “The need for ‘radical self advocacy,’ and unabashedly asking for mentorship in order to build a pipeline for more opportunities,” Sposato says.  

The event was sponsored by the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the national voice and influence of the Korean American community. They seek to do this through networking and engaging in conversations amongst business and policy leaders across a spectrum of segments, from law and finance, to medicine and academia, to the arts and media.

Attendees network at the 2022 SAIGU Leadership Conference.

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

Attendees network at the 2022 SAIGU Leadership Conference.

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

Attendees network at the 2022 SAIGU Leadership Conference.

Courtesy of @Howardminstudio for Korean American Coalition

Published on May 5, 2022

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Words by Howin Wong

Howin Wong is a LA-based brand strategist, DJ, and JoySauce's LA-based wearer of many hats. In addition to being JoySauce’s brand director, his new show 'RuleBreakers' will be debuting later this spring.