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Voices 2012

A New Southern California Chapter

I am recent law graduate who had entered into one of the toughest job markets in years. I graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law and instead of remaining in one of the greenest, yet rainiest places in the United States, I opted to move to good ol' sunny California. Anticipating my move, I sat for the California Bar, which is one of the toughest in the nation.

I decided to take the California Bar for several reasons. Primarily, I have always wanted to live in the greater Los Angeles area. Being born and raised in Alaska-—which is a great place to raise a family and somewhat far away from the complexities of city-life-—and being at the pinnacle of my young adult life, I wanted to live in a BIG city and live or try to live that life. After all, you're only young once. I chose L.A. because it is one of the biggest cities in the nation, and I wanted to stay on the West Coast. Otherwise, I probably would have considered New York City or Chicago. There is something about the West Coast culture. The L.A. area also offers something other major cities don't: the beaches! Growing up in Alaska, I could only imagine what the Californian beaches were like. Sure, Alaska had its beaches... but the beaches were more for great and one-of-a-kind fishing and not for swimming with the beaming sun and tanning on top of the soft, warm sand.

Another equally defining reason for my move to Southern California is the type of work opportunity I wished to pursue. I want to be and work in the sports and entertainment industry. What better city than L.A.? I grew up a Lakers fan and watched the Dodgers quite often (starting when Park Chan Ho was on the team). I played volleyball since middle school. I just love sports. L.A. is the place to be in terms of entertainment as well. There is Hollywood after all. I have a new and deepened appreciation for music. If it wasn't for music, I think I would have gone insane studying for the bar. Music was one of my more necessary tools to de-stress and relax when I would get overwhelmed from bar prep. I watched movies too, but did not or could not watch as many movies. With my love of sports and entertainment, I want to be part of the big transactions to maintain the integrity and the market of these industries. I cannot wait to get more familiarized with the sports and entertainment industries. Yes, I know that it is cut throat and I might need to watch my back, but that just means I'll have work harder to be better. Whether I work for a firm protecting entities in sports and/or entertainment, a team or studio, or an athlete or talent, I know I am going to find something that will make me happy and not regret my decisions.

We all have to create a path for ourselves to achieve what we want; it won't create itself.

Sola Lee is a 2012 graduate of University of Oregon School of Law, former Co-Director of UO's APALSA, former Regional Director of the Pacific North of NAPALSA and is now enjoying life in sunny California!

Political Awakening Of Los Angeles Koreatown

From the turbulent riots of 1992 to modern lofts and savvy eateries, Los Angeles Koreatown has since become a hot multicultural spot and one of the top destinations for its booming A.Y.C.E. K-BBQ (All You Can Eat Korean BBQ) and diverse nightlife. Home to a population of over 120,000 within just 3-square miles, this dense urban center has recently experienced a fiercely debated issue over gerrymandering. The proposed Koreatown redistricting in the early 2012 has stirred much concern amongst Asian Americans living in the city of Los Angeles and especially for the Korean Americans who consider Koreatown their epicenter.

Redistricting occurs once a decade, and this time it officially divided Koreatown into two council districts-—Council Districts 10 and 13-—represented by Councilmen Herb Wesson and Eric Garcetti, respectively. Previously, Koreatown was divided into 4 council districts, and this caused much pain and trouble to residents of Koreatown as it required approval from four different council members to pass a single matter. At first glance, two districts might seem an improvement, but many argue that unnecessary inefficiency and inconvenience will still remain the same. The consequence of the political division is that one of the economic jewels of Los Angeles will continue to stay divided and powerless.

Koreatown activists are fighting aggressively to unite the neighborhood into a single district. The argument is that the Los Angeles City Council's redistricting decision resulted from racially-motivated reasons, primarily to increase the number of registered African-American voters in Council District 10. As the City already has an African American majority district (Council District 8), the Koreatown residents ask that they be in one district to strengthen the area's political and economic voice. To date, Koreatown lacks park space, community centers, and senior housing, among other services and thus the residents express that a single district would improve the chances of getting the attention and services the area deserves. The community members are just asking to be represented by one city council member to hold accountable for its needs.

This August, the fight moved to federal court. The lawsuit's plaintiffs argued that "the city has diluted and negatively impacted the voting power of Koreatown residents by unnecessarily, unlawfully and unconstitutionally dividing their community into two separate districts." [Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2012] The residents' attorney wants a federal judge to bar the city from using the new districts in the March election and to appoint a court-supervised special master to redraw the line. The attorney further made it clear that although there is an interest in having an Asian American majority district-—which could further enhance the changes of electing an Asian American candidate-—the lawsuit is not an attempt to create one.

Attorneys from the Korean American Bar Association (KABA) and the greater Los Angeles continue to voice that this is the political awakening of Koreatown. One attorney expressed that Koreatown refuses to be the quiet group that hands out money without representation while the LA City Redistricting Commission ignores natural borders of the town and slices through inconvenient geographic features. An activist went as far as to refer to Koreatown as an ATM for Councilmen, reflecting how the city has been taking advantage of the community. Throughout the city meetings, attorneys and representatives of Koreatown have been supported by huge turn-outs and bursts of applause by the community members.

The fight to keep Koreatown whole is a golden step towards endowing the neighborhood with voting power or the ability to induce the City Council to respond to Koreatown's needs. The bitter battle over redrawing Los Angeles council district boundaries has brought together diverse organizations and many generations in one voice. It has certainly awakened Koreatown and positioned it at the dawn of yet another economic and cultural upgrade.

Yejee Marilyn Kim is a 3L at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California and is serving as the Pacific South/Southwest Regional Director for NAPALSA

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