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Meet the Five Korean American Candidates Running for Congress in 2020

By Sonia Kim

Throughout the course of roughly a century since Koreans’ initial migration to the United States, only two Koreans were elected into the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1992, Jay Kim became the very first Korean American to serve in Congress. Almost three decades later in 2018, incumbent Andy Kim became the second Korean American to serve. This year, for the first time in history, a record number of five Korean Americans are vying for seats in the 117th Congress.

Among the Korean American hopefuls in the 2020 election cycle include Andy Kim, who is running for re-election in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District; David Kim, candidate for California’s 34th Congressional District; Young Kim, candidate for California’s 39th Congressional District; Michelle Park Steel, candidate for California’s 48th Congressional District; and Marilyn Strickland, candidate for Washington’s 10th Congressional District.

Much like the Korean American community as a whole, these five candidates come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and they represent a wide range of political views. Yet in spite of their differences, common themes that cut across each of the candidates’ campaigns are their immigrant histories and commitment to public service.

Read more about the five Korean American candidates below.

Andy Kim, Congressman, New Jersey 3rd Congressional District.

Andy Kim grew up in South Jersey and spent his entire career in public service. In 2018, he narrowly won a swing district, becoming one of the few Democrats over the past century to hold the seat. Prior to serving as Congressman, he worked as a State Department advisor and later at the National Security Council under President Obama. In his re-election campaign, he is focusing on affordable healthcare, veterans issues, and supporting small businesses. A proud son of Korean immigrants, Andy Kim remains optimistic about what the Korean American community will achieve.



David Kim, Candidate for California 34th Congressional District.

David Kim is an attorney and activist who is now among a new crop of progressive, first-time candidates running for Congress. He was born and raised in the U.S. as a 2nd generation Korean American to immigrant parents. After graduating law school, he worked at the LA County District Attorney’s office on many corruption cases. He also worked as an entertainment attorney to help Asian American and Korean pop artists navigate the U.S. music industry. As a lawyer-turned political candidate, David Kim is fighting for equal access to education, healthcare, and housing for all.




Young Kim, Candidate for California 39th Congressional District.

Young Kim’s bid for Congress has been two decades in the making. She is a first-generation Korean American who became the first Korean American Republican woman elected to California’s Assembly. Before her time in office, she worked in finance and started her own small business in the women’s clothing industry. In 2018, she ran an unsuccessful campaign as the Republican Party candidate for CA-39. If elected this time around, Young Kim pledges to address homelessness, reform the immigration system, and lower regulations for businesses.




Michelle Park Steel, Candidate for California 48th Congressional District.

Born in South Korea, Michelle Park Steel is an American government official. After moving to the U.S., she continued her studies and became active in Republican Party politics. She is currently Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Previously, she was elected to the California State Board of Equalization and served on various commissions in the George W. Bush administration. Her campaign platforms revolve around lowering taxes and securing the border. As an immigrant, Michelle Park Steel shares how she has been fortunate to live the American Dream.



Marilyn Strickland, Candidate for Washington 10th Congressional District.

Marilyn Strickland is a Democratic politician and businesswoman. In the past, she served on the Tacoma City Council for two years before being elected mayor. Having the lens of local government, she hopes to bring a unique perspective to Congress. Her campaign focuses on returning economic prosperity to Tacoma through investment in jobs, infrastructure and education. As an African American and Korean American, Marilyn Strickland embraces both identities and seeks to use her different cultures and experiences to build coalitions across the aisle.



All headshots courtesy of Korean Americans for Political Action.

Sonia Kim is an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America. She is a recent graduate from Harvard College with a degree in Government and East Asian Studies. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons user Bjoertvedt

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