Charles was a volunteer with KYCC’s Prevention Education unit with the Neighborhood Taking Action (NTA) Task Force, comprised of Korean American elders in the community who helped with merchant outreach and neighborhood surveys to reduce underage drinking and youth substance use in Pico-Union, Koreatown and Westlake. 

Where is your hometown?

Muan, Jeonnam [South Jeolla] Province, South Korea. I came to the U.S. in 1977 to work for a government defense contract company. I lived in Glendale from 1977 to 1987 and then I moved back to Korea.

Do you live or work in Koreatown?

Six years ago, I came back to the U.S. to retire and I moved to Koreatown to live with my daughter and her family. My son and my grandchildren live in North Carolina.

I live near Kenmore and 8th Street. There are a lot of drug dealers and alcoholics around and the streets are dirty. I have a lot of ideas on how to enhance our neighborhood, so when KYCC invited me to attend a community meeting in 2012, I went. Now, I’m part of a neighborhood committee that gathers data. I ask my neighbors questions like “What do you think of your environment? How often do you see trash? What type of trash is it? Are you satisfied with this environment? Do you know the process to remove bulky items?” Based on our initial data, we decided that we needed more trash cans and doggy bags.

What are your thoughts on Koreatown?

I’m Korean-American. I struggled between my Korean and American identities, but then I came to the conclusion that I’m Korean American. By moving to Koreatown, I get to build fellowship and interact with my Korean family, colleagues and friends. Koreatown has a lot of Korean restaurants and Korean people. Being in Koreatown is better than no Korean community, but I miss Korea. And I’m not satisfied. I want to improve Korean American culture and see a revitalized Koreatown with a better quality of life.

I’m impressed by how effective and efficient the 1.5 and 2nd generation Korean Americans are. They’re bilingual and they know how to problem solve. Working and interacting with them was a real learning experience for me on how to lead a community.

Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?

The new YMCA. I exercise on the treadmill three times a week.