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Volunteer fills void as Korean liaison in Federal Way

A volunteer liaison is now available to help Korean speaking residents access public services and help English speaking residents better communicate with the city’s Korean population.

The city has offered Korean liaison services since 2001. The liaison was always a part-time paid position until late 2010, when the Korean and Hispanic liaison positions were both eliminated due to budget constraints. Mira Kim is the city’s first volunteer liaison. She began in her position Feb. 23.

Federal Way boasts a noteworthy number of Korean residents. According to the 2010 Census, Federal Way is home to 12,642 people who identify themselves as Asians. The 2000 Census gauged Federal Way’s Asian population at 10,232. The Census Bureau does not specifically quantify how many of those Asians are Korean. However, it is believed that Koreans account for the largest percentage of Asian descendants in Federal Way.

Kim, a Federal Way resident, will provide many of the same services offered by the city’s former liaison. She will assist with translations and help residents access city services. She can also help staff and residents bridge language and culture gaps.

Kim will help facilitate quarterly meetings with the Korean community. At the meetings, issues specific to Federal Way’s Korean population are generally discussed. Kim said she is especially concerned with assuring the elderly and new immigrants have somewhere to go for help.

Kim is available from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S.

“I’m just glad that I can be a part of helping in the community,” Kim said.

Kim became interested in offering her services when a woman at church asked if she would consider volunteering as a liaison for the city. The woman is involved in the city’s quarterly meetings among the Korean population and recognized the need for those to continue.

Kim performed social work for the state for roughly five years, but was laid off a few months ago. Kim felt she had some time to dedicate to her community, though she is working on a master’s degree.

Kim is familiar with the community and the needs of immigrants. She is the wife of a pastor at Pyungan Presbyterian Church and is an immigrant herself. Kim emigrated from her home country nearly 20 years ago. She arrived in Canada before moving to Washington state and Federal Way, where she’s resided since 1999. Due to her role at church and her previous job, she is well aware of the many needs in the state and Federal Way. She understands the intimidation of living in a new country.

“As an immigrant, you don’t know the language,” she said.

The city was not specifically looking for a Korean liaison volunteer, but is grateful to have Kim available, spokesman Chris Carrel said.

“When we have a volunteer that can help us out with a city need we try to facilitate that,” Carrel said. “We really value and need volunteers to fill all of the gaps.”

Kim said she would like to help other ethnic residents access city and community services, even if she does not speak their language.

Find assistance

English speakers may contact Kim at (253) 835-2655. Korean speakers may reach her at (235) 835-2605. She can be reached by email at Korean.Liaison@cityoffederalway.com.

 

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