Tag Archives: korean

Flushing Lunar New Year celebration to be marked with first joint festivities between Korean and Chinese communities

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

As Lunar New Year approaches, Asian communities in Flushing are trying to strengthen their relationship and will be holding a joint celebration for the holiday.

The Korean and Chinese communities are coming together on Feb. 15 to hold a parade for the beginning of their new calendar year. And Flushing Town Hall has announced a celebration between the two groups.

“The Chinese and Korean communities are developing strong roots in Flushing and so we have to do things together to avoid misunderstanding between the two groups,” said Jamison Moon, a member of the Korean American Association of Queens. “Our two communities don’t usually associate but we are trying to create stronger ties.

The Lunar New Year for many Asian cultures falls on Feb. 19 this year and it will be the year of the sheep. In past celebrations, hundreds of people have come out to celebrate in the parade, and organizers are expecting a similar showing of people with an increased boost from both groups celebrating together.

The day will be filled with festivities like traditional Chinese and Korean dances, free rice-cake soups and a K-Pop singing contest.

The joint celebration comes on the heels of a couple of new laws aimed at increasing the awareness of Flushing’s diverse communities. In December a new law was passed that would allow schools in Flushing to close for Lunar New Year, along with other holidays like Diwali. And the city declared Jan.13 the first Korean-American day.

Between 2008 and 2011, the city’s Korean population jumped 11 percent to more than 103,000, according to the Asian American Federation. And Queens has its own vibrant Korean community, which often holds events, like last year’s Senior Olympics, to celebrate its culture.

Flushing Town Hall will meanwhile host a series of events throughout the month with highlights including a bazaar and an Earth, Water, Fire and Wind dance.

“We’re bringing in the new year by being together,” Moon said. “And to be able to do this between two historically strained groups is a great victory.”


City celebrates first Korean-American Day

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Tuesday will go down in the books as the first Korean-American Day in New York City.

The City Council passed a resolution, sponsored by Councilman Peter Koo, in December that marked Jan. 13 as Korean-American Day, dedicated to celebrating Korean culture.

Busloads of Koreans from Queens came to City Hall on Tuesday to celebrate the day with Koo and other elected officials.

“We are very excited that Koreans are being recognized,” said Paul Yoo, president of the Korean American Association of Queens. “Our next step is to get this day recognized on the state level and eventually federally.”

Jan. 13 was chosen because of its importance in Koreans coming to America. In 1903 a ship landed in Hawaii with about 100 Koreans.  And since then, Yoo said, Koreans have contributed to building America. He also noted that the Korean population in New York City has risen over the past few years.

Between 2008 and 2011, the city’s Korean population jumped 11 percent to more than 103,000, according to the Asian American Federation. And Queens has its own vibrant Korean community, which often holds events, like last year’s Senior Olympics, to celebrate its culture.


Calls for boycott, plans for lawsuit after man says he was attacked at Flushing McDonald’s

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Following the release of a video showing a fight between a customer and an employee at a Flushing McDonald’s, Korean-American groups are calling for a boycott of the restaurant, and the customer — who says he was physically attacked by an employee — is planning on suing for millions, according to published reports.

The video footage of the February incident, first broadcast by CBS New York, shows the customer, James Jin Kim, recording video with his cell phone after he said an employee at the Main Street McDonald’s, Rooshi Sajjad, wasn’t serving him, reports said. Sajjad then appears to strike Kim with a broom handle.

In court filings, Kim claims after waiting 10 minutes to order coffee, he complained, and Sajjad started shouting at him, “We don’t serve coffee to people like you” and “Get out of my restaurant,” according to published reports.

On Tuesday, a protest, held by several Korean-American groups, took place outside the McDonald’s, the Daily News reported. The groups are also threatening to boycott the eatery until it trains its employees to be more sensitive toward Asian customers, the paper also said.

Kim, meanwhile, is planning on suing McDonald’s for $10 million, arguing he suffered injuries to his hand and unlawful discrimination, according to published reports.

Sajjad was charged with attempted assault and criminal possession of a weapon, both misdemeanors, and one violation, harassment, but her record will be cleared if she stays out of trouble for another month, reports said. According to CBS New York, Sajjad still works at the McDonald’s.

In a statement to CBS New York, the franchise owner of the McDonald’s, Luigi Solimeo, said: “Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of my customers and employees,” adding that “the video does not capture all of the details surrounding that event.”

This incident at the Main Street fast food restaurant is not the first time that Korean groups have threatened to boycott McDonald’s.

Last January, Korean activists called for a worldwide boycott of McDonald’s following a feud between a group of Korean seniors and the owner of one of its eateries on on Parsons and Northern boulevards.

The dispute began when around 20 seniors would use the restaurant as their personal hang out space, spending about eight hours a day there. The owner, wanting the seats for other customers, called police several times.

A compromise was reached, with the owner agreeing to hire Korean-speaking staff members and extending the 20-minute sitting limit to one hour, except from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.



Korean seniors and Flushing McDonald’s owner reach peace

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A group of Korean seniors and the owner of an embattled Flushing McDonald’s have come to a truce, Assemblymember Ron Kim announced Monday.

The feud between the two parties was a “cultural miscommunication,” said Kim, the state’s first Korean-American elected official.

It began when a cluster of about 20 seniors made the corner eatery on Parsons and Northern Blvds. their favorite hangout, taking up seats for about eight hours every day, The Korea Times and New York Times first reported.

The extended stays have kept others from patronizing the McDonald’s, franchisee Jack Bert said.

“I’m sure you can imagine any business would find this situation to be difficult,” he said in a statement.

As part of the compromise, Bert agreed to hire Korean-speaking staff members and extend the 20-minute sitting limit to one hour, except from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I’ve been proud to serve this community for nearly 20 years, and my restaurant has been happy to welcome these customers for years,” Bert said.

“I was confident that once we were able to sit together and talk, we would come to a positive resolution that would create an environment where all customers who wish to enjoy this restaurant would have the ability to do so.”

The seniors agreed to abide by the new sitting hours and be transported by the Korean Community Services to meet at local senior centers during the fast-food restaurant’s busy hours.

The dispute, at its peak, led to four police interventions since November, according to the Times.

David Choe, 76, one of the group’s regulars, told The Courier he was insulted to be asked to leave.

“This is my town,” he said. “I’m happy people are taking us seriously now. Before, nobody really cared about this matter.”

It even sparked a boycott last week amongst a trio of Korean activists. Outraged, they called for a worldwide boycott of McDonald’s throughout February.

“Senior citizens have been working hard their whole lives. They should be respected,” said Christine Colligan, co-chair of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York, who led the protest. “This is the core of Koreatown. I cannot believe this is happening here.”

Kim said the culture clash also stemmed from a lack of resources for seniors.

“What we’ve done over the last few days is make sure both parties understand where each other is coming from and have some compassion,” he said. “This was a small business owner trying to survive and a small group of seniors trying to find a social space.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said the compromise represents Flushing’s tradition of respect.

“It goes back hundreds of years,” she said. “It’s a peaceful community, and it’s going to continue to be a peaceful community.”



Translator busted for scamming patients

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

A Korean-speaking translator’s scheme was snuffed out when he was caught conning Elmhurst Hospital Center’s non-English speaking patients.

The man, whose identity has not yet been released, charged $240 for translation and interpretation assistance – services generally provided for free by the hospital.

“Accurate language translation and interpretation services reduce medical errors and increase the patient’s ability to participate fully in important health care decisions,” said hospital spokesperson Atiya Butler.

The translating trickster was found out by a staff member who alerted New York City Health and Hospitals Police, telling them a patient had been asked to cough up a fee for help with obtaining a health insurance card.

Hospital police issued the perpetrator a summons for criminal trespassing. Officials from Elmhurst Hospital Center would not specify how long the individual has been swindling patients.

New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) annually serves 1.3 million patients, speaking more than 100 languages.

According to Butler, during the 2011 fiscal year, Elmhurst Hospital provided more than 115,000 translations in 89 different languages. The complimentary service includes round-the-clock telephone interpreters, fluent in more than 100 languages, and in-person translators.

Multilingual signs posted throughout the hospital read “free interpreter services.” Additional information, including “I speak” cards and orientation videos, is distributed to incoming patients.

“We provide various translation services, including selected bilingual and multilingual staff and volunteers who get specialized medical interpretation training tailored to their professional needs,” said Butler.

Antonio Meloni, executive director at Immigration Advocacy Services in Astoria, said certain ethnic groups perpetrate scams among their own. He said language and cultural familiarity make it easy for schemers to dupe people of similar backgrounds.

“They’re taking advantage of their own because it’s much easier to defraud someone because they think they’re your friend,” said Meloni. “The scammers are usually very good at what they do.”

Meloni, who has worked in the field for 23 years, said he has seen similar cases of fraud in the past.

Assembly race divided along ethnic lines

| mchan@queenscourier.com


A Democratic Assembly hopeful in a primary race already dividing ethnic lines fears a split Korean community could give the Chinese candidate a golden ticket to the general election.

Myungsuk Lee, who is vying for the potentially open and brewing 40th Assembly District race, expects to face an uphill battle with fellow Korean candidate — and county pick — Ron Kim.

“The Korean community is a little divided between Ron Kim and me,” said Lee, 49, of Flushing. “Their votes are really divided. I don’t think it’s easy to unify them because I will keep running. I won’t give up, and the other candidate won’t give up.”

Kim, a 33-year-old South Korean-born community activist, has the backing of the Queens County Democratic Organization and City Comptroller John Liu. The Flushing resident was an aide to then-Assemblymember Mark Weprin before moving on to work for the city’s Department of Buildings and the Department of Small Business Services, serving also as vice president of the Korean American Association of Greater New York.

Lee, owner and publisher of the tabloid newspaper Korean American Times, is the president of the Federation of Korean American Associations in Greater New York and former president of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce of New York and the Korean American Association of Queens.

While each candidate eyeing the seat will still have to garner enough petitions to make it on to the ballot, Lee and Kim expect to face off with Chinese contender Ethel Chen.

“If there are two Koreans and one Chinese [candidate], it’s not easy for us to win,” Lee said, citing the results of the highly competitive 20th District City Council race in 2009, when Korean hopefuls John Choe and S.J. Jung were beat out in the Democratic primary by Chinese contender Yen Chou. “We are afraid that’s going to happen again.”

Chou — who is also reportedly seeking another run for election this year in the 40th District — was ultimately defeated in that general election by then-Republican rival Peter Koo.

Former Democratic district leader Martha Flores-Vazquez has also reportedly joined the buzzing primary this year. But each hopeful could possibly go up against Assemblymember Grace Meng, who currently holds the seat and is making a run for Congress in the 6th District. Meng’s spokesperson did not directly address whether she would step down or seek re-election if her campaign falls short of Capitol Hill.

On the Republican ticket, Chinese candidate Phil Gim — who got the nod from the Queens County GOP — will take on Korean-native Sunny Hahn.

Candidates have until July 12 to gather enough signatures to qualify for the September 13 primaries.

Communication Breakdown: Residents want English signs, legislation slow in coming

| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

Some Flushing residents — still enraged about the lack of bilingual signage on businesses in the downtown area — had one universal message: “English comes first.”

“When store owners put up signs in only their language, they’re saying they don’t want us in the store. And if they don’t want me in their stores in my country, then I don’t want them in my country,” said resident Eugene Sadowsky.

The issue has been an ongoing one for over two years, said resident James Trikas, who is part of a small group of locals fighting to see signage in the area changed to 60 percent English and 40 percent in a second language.

“They’re sending the message that they cater to their own, and that’s offensive and wrong,” Trikas said. “They are changing the community to show that this is a Chinese or Korean only community. A business shouldn’t do that. We’re all for fairness, but we’re trying to unite people and not allow people to segregate us.”

Currently, state law does require bilingual signage. However, it is not enforced due to miscommunication as to which agency is responsible, according to elected officials. The law also does not apply to leased businesses.

While legislation has been introduced in the State Assembly, as well as the City Council, Trikas said local electeds have showed little to no leadership in getting the matter resolved due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

“They know it’s a huge problem in the community, and they’re not doing anything about it. They’re ignoring it by shifting the burden into enforcement. This is a game they’re playing to delay the issue,” said Trikas.

Assemblymember Grace Meng said the bill she introduced has been submitted to the state, but she said there is no time frame on when it would be voted on or passed. Her bill would require signs to have bilingual language, make the law apply to leased properties and name the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) as the rightful enforcer. Under the bill, the city agency would also determine the ratio of English and other languages on the signs.

“It’s hard to determine the timeline of a bill. Some bills take months and some take years,” Meng said. “I know it’s not the easiest thing to do. We’re trying to do it without overly burdening businesses.”

Co-sponsored city legislation introduced about a year ago by Councilmember Dan Halloran and Peter Koo would require signs to be 60 percent in English. It would also make the DCA responsible for enforcement.

However, according to Steven Stites, a spokesperson for Halloran, the councilmembers were told jurisdiction lies in the state, not the city.

“This is America. This is our country. I’m starting to be rude, and I really am starting not to care,” Sadowsky said. “I’m not racist. I’m not against anybody coming here. But when it comes to the signage, I’m dead against it. They have to change the signs now — not next year, not next month, not next week.”