Hannah Haein Kim

Hannah Kim is a senior at CalState LA majoring in Computer Information Systems. She is also a Graphic Design Intern at KYCC, where she has worked since November 2019. She has lived in Koreatown for the past decade. In March, Hannah’s entire family was infected by COVID-19, and her grandmother and father passed away. Her mother is in the hospital awaiting a lung transplant, while she and her brother have both recovered. (They were largely asymptomatic.) In June 2020, Hannah started her own sticker business; you can see and buy her work here. Her instagram is @hancandrawtoo. A GoFundMe was created for her family here. 

Where is your hometown?

My hometown is Olympia, Washington. I was born there and [my family] moved a lot of times. First to Walla Walla, Washington–that’s where my brother was born. And then we moved to the countryside to Randle, Washington. And then we moved to Sterling, Colorado and then to Denver and within Denver we moved around Centennial and Aurora. After Colorado, we came to L.A. and we’ve been living here for about 9-10 years now. I grew up in a lot of different places. We moved to L.A. because my dad had a job here at World Vision, a humanitarian nonprofit for children where they sponsor children and look after them. He was a pastor and he did a lot of different jobs but that’s the one he found here in L.A.. He moved here first by himself for a year before we all came and we came straight to K-Town and we’ve been in the same apartment for 10 years. 

Do you live or work in Koreatown? 

(When did you start working at the place you’re working at right now, and why? What led you to work in Ktown? Do you like working where you do? Why and in what ways?)

I live right next to MacArthur Park on Hoover and 8th Street. And right down the street is Wilshire and Vermont. It’s kind of the outskirts of K-Town, right before downtown. 

I’m a graphic design intern at KYCC. I didn’t get into graphic design right away. I didn’t know what to do my first year of college. My parents always pushed for some kind of medical background because my dad was an acupuncture doctor too. My dad and brother are really smart but I guess I skipped a generation or something [laughs]. I tried nursing, I hated it, and so I switched my major to Computer Information Systems. I’m more of a technology person anyway so I got into that. Computer information systems is a fusion of business and computer coding. I also like doing art. A lot of my friends are into art. I met this one unni (older female in Korean) and she’s a graphic designer and she introduced me to everything. One day I committed, got myself an iPad and started doodling. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t change my major to Graphic Design or Art. I thought it was smarter to do something that I could fall back on at school and then try to build my resume and portfolio in graphic design outside of my school–direct experience. Art school is expensive… I think just working and getting tips from experts outside of school is more worth it. So I decided not to do art in school. I did a lot of freelance. I started off with friends of families and they started connecting me to different people and they saw my profile on Instagram and contacted me and asked me to do commissions for them. That’s how I learned; I learned Adobe by myself and then I started working for KYCC.

Every October, KYCC has a costume contest, and you can get movie tickets or something if you win. Moon (Moon Park from KYCC HR) asked me to make her costume that’s now taped around the office. I made this little costume about KYCC and people talked and Katherine saw my resume and asked me to come in. That’s how I got the internship. I wasn’t actively looking for an internship but it just happened. But I’m really grateful for that.  

Now I’m doing a sticker business. I’ve always wanted to make stickers. I was always curious about how to make them. One day I thought I needed a new hobby. I also started it because my parents were both in the hospital and my grandma just passed away, so I craved a new hobby and…it’s just fun! It took a long time to launch because of what was going on at home. But it gets my mind off of my reality because my reality is too raw, way too real for me and I just needed something to help me have a workflow and this really gave me some workflow. 

The theme is just cute! It’s supposed to be happy and lighthearted. Depending on the season or my mood, the theme will change. A lot of it’s supposed to be for bullet journaling because I love bullet journaling and a lot of ppl are into that especially during quarantine so why not stickers for them? I’m thinking of putting vinyl stickers for people to put on their water bottles and laptops but I’m still figuring things out. Literally I have 200 more orders I have to do. It’s pretty crazy right now. People are like “please put up the google form again so we can order.”

What are your thoughts on Koreatown? 

I think it’s very interesting. I lived here 10 years now and I grew up in a lot of different places but I can confidently say that I really grew up in K-Town. This is where I have the most memories. I moved around a lot and  went to three different middle schools so my [early] childhood was all over the place. So I really appreciate that I got to spend my childhood here [in K-Town]. It’s so fun here. This is really my home. I know where everything is, where the hot spots are, my friends and I go to the same places a million times in high school, I take the bus everywhere even though it’s disgusting. 

 It’s so interesting to me because in K-Town you can either come out of it very OK but you can also come out of it sort of broken. But thankfully I think I’ve been safe all these years and I grew up pretty well. 

K-Town has changed so much. Everything seems gentrified. Although I love K-Town, there are things that kind of disappoint me. Like when a homeless shelter was being built around here so many Korean people hated the idea and that really disappointed me. It’s just so expensive here and they’re expecting people to pay so much money that they don’t have. And people like me—I’ve been living here for a long time and my rent is $1420 and now I have to be evicted because they’re demolishing my apartment to gentrify it. Now I have to go from $1420 to like $2200. And this isn’t just happening to me but also to the local people who may be more disadvantaged than I am. It’s a scary time. I have a love-hate relationship with K-Town. 

Where is your favorite place in Koreatown? 

I love love love OB Bear. It’s a  two-minute walk from my house. It’s one of my favorite places to get a drink or chicken. Another place I love is my church (Mijoo Peace Church on Vermont and 3rd). My church has a gated parking lot and [my friends and I] don’t just go on Fridays and Sundays but we go when we have nowhere else to go. My friend and I bought some beer and food and we went to the church parking lot and ate outside. I think it’s kind of like a safe haven for me. It’s one of our go-to places. I’ve been at my church for 10 years ever since I moved here. People at my church watched me grow up. When I first met them I was 14. Now I’m 22—they basically raised me. 

What has given you comfort and hope during this time? 

I’m doing the sticker business and having the workflow is comforting because it’s something to occupy my mind. Because right now my mind is clouded by dark thoughts and it’s a hard season so I need something to keep me going, keep me moving.

I have two dogs at home. Their names are Ollie and Cookie, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without them. 

Third thing is community. I have no family in L.A. right now that’s coming to support me because they’re all in New York so they can only comfort us through the phone so what’s keeping [me and my brother] going is our community and our support system here in L.A., like our church where people tell us they love us and pray for us. They give us a meal train and we keep saying “stop giving us food” but from my parents’ church and our church, it’s just constant love and support. Random people have been contacting us and helping us out on GoFundMe and that’s really changed our lives too. It gives us a sense of love and community even though we’re literally all in different places. Although everybody was apart, people showed our family that they still care. 

I go to a volunteer group called RenewLA and they have been really gracious. They know so many resources and they gave me an advisory board where I could say crazy things and help me go through things in good ways. And KYCC has done that also. KYCC’s motto is to help serve the whole family, and this time it was for my family, and it was just a blessing that I ran into the opportunity to become their intern. And Katherine has been so gracious too. She directed us to different departments in KYCC and so many people in KYCC whom I’ve just met once or twice wanted to help out. It’s really encouraging to see so many people wanting to step up and offer their services to us. And that’s kind of what keeps us going. 

What is the toughest part of your days right now? The best? 

The worst part is in the morning, rIght when I wake up. That’s literally the worst part of my day. I don’t want to sound depressed, but when I wake up, I open my eyes, stare up at the ceiling, and ask God “is this literally my life?” I have to fill myself in with what’s been happening in my life. I have to constantly remind myself “today it has to be this and this and this because this happened in your life and you’re going through it.” This morning was really hard for me because it’s just lonely at home. My mom is in the hospital where I can’t go see her right now and it’s just a waiting game because if the doctor says no to her lung transplant, we don’t know what the next step is. It’s sickening and it makes me want to barf. 

Just the thought that my grandma and dad passed away is really sad. This morning I cried because it feels awful to start a day when so much has been going on. My dad was an acupuncture doctor and this weekend we had to pack up his things and try to sell them so that was really heartbreaking for me. I used to go to work with him a lot. A lot has been happening. I used to be level-headed and channel my feelings and cope with them; but right now, it’s hard for me to cope. I’ll put a smile on my face but it’s really not like that in my heart. And if someone yells at me, I get really angry because I can’t take it and I think ‘why did you yell at me at this time?’ So yeah, a lot of emotions, especially in the morning.

The best part of my day… An OK part of my day is when I’m doing work I guess–when I’m reading or drawing or going out for a beer. We were all in quarantine and everything was closed  and we couldn’t go out at all. At first, I was critical of people who went out but now I feel like I have to go out or else I’m going to faint. The days I go out make up the nice part of my day. It’s not the best part, but tolerable. 

Has this experience changed you? If so, how? 

I’ve become a lot more independent. Just three months ago I was a child, completely under my parents’ wings. They did everything for me. They fed me, did my laundry… Literally I was a helpless child but God was like “grow up” and He showed it to me in the most dramatic way. We have to do everything on our own! It’s all new to me but I’m trying to take it step by step. It’s like when a mama bird tosses her children out the nest; I’m tossed out of the nest and I’m having to learn by myself. I’m learning so much about the people and the world and how it works. It’s a difficult world and rigorous to live in and I think I’m learning its consequences. But I’m doin’ it. Through this experience, I feel how much people care about me and my family and how much I have to cling to God more. Because really what hope do I have if I don’t have His promises?