Jackie Bong Wright

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LOKA-USA 2002 Conference and Awards

By Jackie Bong-Wright

Mission and Activities

The League of Korean Americans-USA, Inc., came together December 1 for a national conference and awards banquet at the McLean Hilton in McLean, Virginia. Eighteen LOKA-USA representatives came from across the country and as far away as Hawaii for the event.
The world-renowned father of American Tae Kwon Do, Jhoon Rhee, holder of a 10th -degree black belt, served as Master of Ceremonies to two hundred attentive guests. Kim Miller, the organization’s president, thanked LOKA-USA volunteers and reminded the audience to remember those serving around the world during the holiday season to safeguard the country’s security.
LOKA-USA, a non-profit organization established in 1994, works to eliminate prejudice and ignorance, promote the active participation of Korean Americans and other ethnic groups in the civic and political processes, and preserve Korean culture. It is known for its citizenship drives and voter registration campaigns as well as educational programs and information on politics and the policy agenda.
Dr. C.D (Dan) Mote, President of the University of Maryland and the event’s keynote speaker, questioned whether a U.S. higher education system that now leaves its graduates debt-ridden needs re-focusing. Following World War II, he noted, the U.S. committed itself to education as a “public good.” The GI Bill funded schooling for returning veterans and expanded state support for education. Citizens, he said, began to consider higher education mandatory to their fulfillment, and nations throughout the world try to replicate our higher education system.
However, in the mid 1970s, Mote noted, the policy of education as a public good began to evolve into education as a “personal benefit.” Loans began to replace scholarships, and institutional policy and individuals’ needs started moving in opposite directions. The outcome, he went on, is the stretching of individuals through increased tuition costs and consequent debt. “With two-thirds of the nation’s students graduating with an average debt of $17,000, we have to question whether this national policy is good for the future of the nation.” He concluded, “The principle of public good versus personal benefit needs to be reconsidered, especially as we move into the knowledge economy, where the future relies on knowledge-based jobs and industry.”
As entertainment, Mr. Dong Keon Kim, a soloist who studied music in Italy and Germany and has performed across the U.S., graced the evening with well-known classical and Christmas songs interspersed throughout the program.

Awards Presentation

The evening saw achievement awards given to five people in different categories. Dr. Yoon-Soo Park received the Community Service Award. He is a Program Director of the Office of Naval Research and Chairman of the Korean American Scholarship Foundation, responsible for administering endowment funds of nearly $2.5 million. Dr. Park was cited as having played a vital role in promoting cooperation in science and technology between Korea and the U.S. Dr. Park is also the recipient of the Korea Global Award by the Council on Korean Studies at Michigan State University for his “commitment and unselfish devotion” to the well-being of Korean communities and global society.
The Businesswoman-of-the Year award was presented to Susan Au Allen, president of the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. An attorney and law partner in a Washington firm who is nationally recognized for her work on immigration, international trade and investment, Ms. Allen’s op-ed articles have appeared in such publications as The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, Asian Week, and Asian Fortune. She has been a commentator on C-Span, CNN, ABC, Fox News, and “The News Hour,” among other shows, reaching millions of viewers in North America and Asia. Among her subjects of expertise, according to the citation, are U.S.-China relations, Asian Americans, working women, affirmative action, recruitment of high- technology professionals, scientists and engineers, and ethnic marketing strategies. She serves as director on a number of boards, and was Vice Chair of the Republican National Committee’s New Majority Council, organized to reach out to minority communities across the nation.
Dr. Jay Khim was one of two Man-of-the-Year award recipients. Dr. Khim is Chairman and CEO of the Virginia-based JWK International Corporation, twice named by INC Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in America. He is a co-founder of various Korean-American associations, and serves on the boards of organizations such as INOVA Health systems, the Wolf Trap Foundation, and the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.
The best-known awardee was Virginia Republican senator John Warner, also selected as a Man of the Year. A U.S. Senate member for 35 years, Sen. Warner was said to owe his college and law education to the G.I. Bill, which provided opportunities to millions of veterans after WWII. During the intense period of the war in Vietnam, he served in the Department of Defense for over five years, ending as Secretary of Defense. Sen. Warner has also chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee, and is currently the Committee’s top-ranking minority member.
Do Sun Jang, staff reporter for the Korea Daily, won the Journalist-of-the-Year Award. Mr. Jang started his journalism career at The Korean Herald in Seoul, and covered the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Two years later, he moved to the Korea Daily as part of the International Economic department. Jang has been writing stories on Korean-American communities in the Washington area since March 2001.