Found in translation: A link to the city


Federal Way will attempt to propel communication while spanning culture and language barriers with the addition of a new Korean liaison to the city’s staff.

“The Korean community is the very strong community here,” city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said.

The city has employed a Korean liaison since 2001, largely because the Korean business population in Federal Way is extremely active, Farmer said. K.C. Jung is the newest liaison. She has expansive experience translating between English and Korean and has begun setting goals to better include Federal Way’s approximately 4,460 Koreans in the city’s happenings.

“Obviously Korean-American is one of the largest binary groups in Federal Way,” Mayor Mike Park said.

Jung started in her position Dec. 3. The city’s Korean liaison position was left vacant in July. The five-month gap in services and the absence of a predecessor to guide Jung means she will have a lot of work to catch up on. But instead of feeling nervous or overwhelmed, Jung is excited to begin helping the community, she said.

“I’m here for the Korean population,” Jung said.

The city offers about 11 daily and weekly Korean publications and media,

which report local, as well as Korean, news and entertainment. However, communication barriers still prohibit many of Federal Way’s Korean-speaking population from staying informed on what is happening in their own city, Jung said.

“Because of the language barrier, some Korean-American citizens don’t want to participate or don’t know what’s going on (in the city),” she said.

Additionally, some of the Korean-American population may not be aware that the city employs a resource who is able to translate between English and Korean, she said.

The city’s Korean media has informed residents of the city’s Korean liaison, Park said. Jung will still have a lot of work ahead of her to inform residents of her presence though, Farmer said.

“A lot of people don’t know about this position and my services,” Jung said.

With this in mind, Jung has set out to improve Federal Way — one passport, translation, public notice and meeting at a time. She has yet to settle into her position and get comfortable with the Federal Way community, but she is busy planning a quarterly meeting set for March 2008. There, she will introduce herself to Federal Way’s Korean-speaking attendants and provide an update on what is going on in the city.

Important topics such as the Safe City program, which is designed to cut back on crime in the downtown area, and the downtown Symphony redevelopment project are topics that may be discussed, Farmer said.

Jung will provide the city with valuable insight as to how best to get information to Korean-speaking residents, Farmer said. Jung may translate news articles written in English into Korean, she said.

Beside this goal, Jung is also working to establish a schedule in which residents can visit her to acquire a passport or ask questions regarding topics such as building inspections or city codes, she said.

“I’m the reach between the Korean citizens and the city,” Jung said.

Found in translation

Serving as a go-between is a familiar position to Jung, who grew up in Korea and moved to the United States in 1996 after she graduated from college. At her previous job, she served as an administrator in a law office where she often translated between English and Korean to allow lawyers in the firm to understand one another, she said.

Jung’s parents still reside in Korea, but she keeps in touch. She has in-laws in America, who often require her translation abilities when they visit the doctor, she said.

Jung’s two children, ages 5 and 7, both identify Korean as their first language, as that is what is spoken in the Jung household. But once they began their schooling, they caught on to English quickly, she said.

Now, they effortlessly shift between the two languages.

It’s sad that many first-generation Korean-American parents are not able to speak English and their second-generation children are not able to speak Korean, Jung said. The situation lends itself to broken communication, she said.

Jung hopes to avoid this occurrence in her current job and let Korean-American residents know she is someone they can turn to for assistance — and someone who can identify with both the Korean and American cultures.

“They can ask me about everything about City Hall,” Jung said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

Quick number facts:

84,166: The number of people residing in Federal Way

10,352: The number of Asian Federal Way residents (equal to 12.3 percent)

14,729: The number of foreign-born Federal Way residents (equal to 17.5 percent)

6,649: The number of black Federal Way residents (equal to 7.9 percent)

6,312: The number of Hispanic Federal Way residents (equal to 7.5 percent)

All information was gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau Web site at and reflects 2000 statistics.

Side note

Historically, the Korean liaison position has been successful, said Linda Farmer, spokeswoman for Federal Way. For this reason, Federal Way plans to hire a part-time Hispanic liaison in 2008, Farmer said. Advertisement for the job will begin in early 2008, she said.

“The Hispanic population in Federal Way is growing rapidly,” Farmer said.

If this position is successful, Mayor Mike Park would like to see a Ukrainian liaison employed by the city, he said.

“We are trying to reach out to other ethnic groups,” he said.

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