By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Turmoil within the ranks and staff have hit another Asian American organization, causing a clearly defined split. The Korean Resource Center-LA (KRC) in recent months saw about 20 staff members resign in protest against the leadership of the organization, a lack of overtime pay, a generational disconnect and alleged inappropriate behaviors. Most of the complaints on record are aimed against the board President D.J. Yoon, who recently admitted to the LAist that he had made errors as the board President and that some of his actions and intentions have been misunderstood.
For service organizations like KRC, whose primary aim is to ” empower low-income, immigrant, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and communities of color in Southern California. “ (via KRC website), pubic image means everything and in this case, the organization’s public image has been severely tainted.
” Many of the staff have come together because we feel unsafe working in our organization because of you and we have compiled letters to address this severe issue,” concerned staff wrote in a letter addressed to President Yoon and posted online.
The complaints address what some of the staff considers poor leadership, low staff morale and the failure to address sexist and misogynistic behaviors.
AsAmNews contacted current board member Angela Oh for comment about this split and division and what she and the board feels is the way forward. She directed us to the public statement posted on the KRC website which stated that ” We worked very hard to resolve these challenges but weren’t able to surmount a growing divide. ” and that ” In addition, the board and staff are working together to ensure resilience, stability, and safe transition. ” Oh shared with us a letter which the board sent out to staff on the day the resignations came in.
The letter addressed the concerns/complaints raised by the resigning staff and mentioned that they (the board) want to provide a “healthy and productive workplace for everyone”, that “moving forward, KRC will have a zero-tolerance policy” on issues around workplace discrimination and harassment, and that “the best course for KRC is to maintain DJ’s involvement in the organization”, but that he “will not supervise any other KRC staff, nor will he be doing any personnel functions for the organization”.
“Fortunately, our core work continues and we have had the good fortune of getting a transition team with deep experience in social justice work to join us, Oh said to AsAmNews.
“Other issues related to inter- generational, intercultural, class differences among staff will take some time to sort out and take in so that important lessons are gleaned from all that has occurred. We already are going through a healing and self-reflection process.”
So, the question is, can the KRC move on and rebuild from here? The situation is pretty dire and the case is eerily similar to the issues Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Los Angeles ( AAAJ-LA ) who too recently went through split, divisions, internal strife which resulted in a number of sudden lay offs. To see these type of issues happen in organizations who aim to service the Asian American community, specifically those who are in more disadvantaged situations is really disappointing. Staff at organizations like KRC and AAAJ form the core and the nucleus that keeps the wheels moving on service provision, so they do deserve to be treated with respect and integrity. At the same time, boards need to make hard decisions and in situations like this, an outlook of rebuilding, change and transformation needs to be implemented.
Finally, there is a GoFundMe page organized by Nara Kim and Healy Ko ( who AsAmNews attempted to get in touch with for comment) titled “Union Supporters at the Korean Resource Center”, with the aim of raising funds for the 11 union members for them to make ends meet till they find alternative employment. So far it has raised $11,476, with a $30,000 goal.
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