Istared at my surroundings. I was in Seoul, Korea, over 5,000 miles away from my home in Seattle. My office at the Ministry of Justice was enormous. It had closets, a wide-screen televi- sion with about 1,000 cable channels, and a plate of resh fruit and a basket of candy on my desk. (I as- sumed that this was the welcome fruit and candy — until I showed up the next day and discovered more fruit and candy.) I was even more surprised when an aide brought me a newspaper, along with a choice of
coffee or tea. This happened the following day and every morning after that. In the United States, I was usually the one buying
my paralegals coffee and lunch to ensure that they would help
me meet deadlines. In Korea, these employees were paid to make
my professional life easier by running personal errands. “I could
definitely get used to this,” I thought.
How did I get there? Let’s back up a few years.
From the Courtroom to Korea
Since 2000, I have been with the King County Prosecutor’s
Office in Seattle. I felt incredibly fortunate to make my liv-
ing trying cases. After 12 years in the office, I had tried al-
most 100 jury trials. I was proud of my public service and my
role in ensuring justice for the citizens in my neighborhood.
In addition, as an Asian American, I helped break down ste-
reotypes. During jury selection, the room is typically filled
with about 50 to 100 potential jurors, the majority of whom
are Caucasian. Asian Americans seem to be a more common
sight in the health professions or science-related industries
than in the courtroom. By simply being myself and trying
cases in front of these jurors, I have helped negate stereo-
types that Asian Americans cannot be effective and articu-
late oral advocates.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my position as a prosecutor, I
sometimes regretted that I rarely had the opportunity to use
the Korean language skills that I had worked so hard to acquire.
Learning Korean greatly enhanced personal communications
with my family, but all those years of translating documents
for my immigrant parents, working in my family’s restaurant
taking orders for sushi and teriyaki, and spending numerous
hours in upper-level Korean language courses at the University
of Washington had not benefited me professionally. How could
by Steven Kim
A Chance to Help Korea