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Nodutdol . e*News
January 2009

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January Announcements

Stop Massacres in Gaza & Break the Siege
Act now before it's too late!
Protest against the Israeli genocide against Palestinians!
Stop U.S. Support to Israel!

Sign the Appeal to Stop the Attack on Gaza!

Urgent Appeal for Israel to Immediately Cease Its Murderous Bombing, Siege and Threatened Invasion of Palestinian Gaza
Initiated by 2008 U.N. Human Rights Award winner Ramsey Clark

Youth Video Project Contest Deadline Extended
We have extended the deadline for “Military or What!”, Nodutdol’s military recruitment video contest for Asian American youth, to March 1! Go to to upload your submission. For more info, go to

Korean Language Class- 2009 Spring Session starts January 13/14
Nodutdol for Korean Community Development is now accepting students for the 2009 Spring Session Korean Language Classes. If you are interested, please contact us at or 718-335-0419.

Nodutdol January Updates

Congratulations to the newlyweds, Young and Injoo! Nodutdol members Young Choe and Injoo Whang tied the knot in November 2008 in Korea. We give them our best wishes on their journey together. Viva love!

Nodutdol will have its annual retreat on January 10-11. Members will collectively evaluate our work in 2008 and also strategize and develop our workplans for 2009. Through group discussions and activities, we hope that members can develop stronger bond and find common goals in our work.

A Journey Home: Visiting North Korea

by Kei Fischer

My mother’s ethnic heritage is relatively unheard of in the United States. She is ethnically Korea, but was born in and grew up in Japan. Her mother came to Japan when she was 10 years old with her mother from Wonson, a port city in the northern region of Korea, so that they could find a new life. Her father came from Cheju island, off the southern coast of Korea, also in search of a job, when he was only 17. When they came to Japan, they came as Japanese nationals, because Japan had occupied Korea. Many Koreans were also forced to come as laborers in Japan. In 1945 when the occupation ended, the over 600,000 Koreans that stayed in Japan became zainichi: permanent resident aliens without a country. Upon Korea's division, most took on South Korean nationality, but some, like my grandmother, refused to declare sides.

My mother grew up in post-war Japan, not speaking any Korean, because her father was afraid she would be discriminated against. Therefore, my mother has always carried an alienated sense of identity, both literally and metaphorically, not feeling Korean or Japanese enough most of her life. That sense was passed down to my sister and me: both of us being biracial zainichis with US citizenship. With our mother’s family residing over 5,000 miles away and our own mother not knowing much about our Korean heritage, I was left to learning about Korean culture and language through library books and college courses. However, you can only learn so much through books. My desire to visit North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was personal: I wanted to find a connection to the land and the heritage that I stood to lose if I did not take the initiative to visit. I wanted to see the home of my grandmother, meet the people who might share a similar laugh, and eat the food my ancestors grew up on.

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Korean Workers Unite! Interview with Elizabeth Koo at AALDEF

By Sukjong Hong

Korean Workers Unite! Interview with Elizabeth Koo, Community Organizer for the Korean Workers Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s (AALDEF) New Jersey-Asian American Legal Project (NJ-AALP).

We first met Elizabeth Koo last October when she volunteered as a legal observer at the rally for Kiryung Electronics women workers who came all the way from Korea to New York to call for a meeting with Sirius Satellite Inc. Elizabeth told us that the Korean Workers Project had relaunched in August 2007. I was very excited to learn more about this project and her work as Community Organizer, and in this interview she told us about how she got connected to the project, the work conditions that many low-income Korean workers face, the challenges of organizing, and, of course, the joys.

SJ: How did you get connected to AALDEF?

Elizabeth: I started getting involved with AALDEF as an intern in college because I was thinking about a career in law. I worked with Alex Saingchin who coordinates the New Jersey- Asian American Legal Project (NJ-AALP) at AALDEF and I assisted closely with AALDEF’s efforts in combating workplace violations of Korean workers. That interest in law developed into an interest in community organizing.

SJ: Why did you choose to take on this position as Community Organizer for the Korean Workers Project?

Elizabeth: People use the phrase ‘community organizing’ to mean many different things. But to be able to better understand what it truly is and see how it can effectively improve people’s lives has been very exciting. I really like this position because there is a great need to offer support to Korean workers, and because I was excited to continue working on the NJ-AALP. With my Korean language ability, I can work more closely with the workers. Therefore, working at AALDEF made sense to me because there are so many labor issues related to language barriers and so much of NJ-AALP’s work is about language access issues.

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A Personal Reflection on Nodutdol’s 10 years

By Eunhy Kim

Nodutdol is ten years old?!?! Does that mean we have all grown ten years older? Time is such a strange concept to grasp. So many events have taken place in my life in the past decade, and it’s not surprising that they are very intertwined with those of Nodutdol… It’s interesting how some memories stand out as if they happened yesterday while others are meshed in a timeline of their own.

Having initial meetings at bars and in each others’ living rooms do seem like a long time ago – to name the new organization “Nodutdol” was first conceived at a pub uptown - but wasn’t it just yesterday that we started the Korean and English language classes, along with the health fairs and the prep meetings to start a charter school? At that times, it seemed like tremendous changes were being made on the Korean peninsula, especially with the 6.15 North-South summit, and there was fire and energy in the air here for changes and “bridge-building” in our community. Gee, was 2001 the year of our first trip to the DPRK, first youth program, first office, and first time our membership more than doubled – including our first Nodutdol baby Hankyul? We were becoming multi-generational, bi-cultural, and making efforts to have our meetings and events bilingual. When was our amazing involvement in the anti-WTO talks in Hong Kong and how many rounds of US-Korea FTA talks were there where we created Korean-style havoc in various cities across this country?

When I was asked to write a reflection piece of our last 10 years, I thought I should go back to my old notes and recreate a Nodutdol timeline. But that proved to be so time-consuming as I got stuck reading some old emails (from 1999!) and couldn’t move on. It was like reading an old diary and struck by how so much has changed… and NOT changed – like certain unnamed people writing lengthy emails — haha! Anyway, I’ll rely on selective memory instead and see where this takes me.

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Real change? That depends… on You

By M.K.

As an 18 year-old who voted for the first time in November’s election, I share the country’s excitement over about Barack Obama’s historic election, but am apprehensive about whether this moment’s potential will be fully realized. To me, part of the significance of Obama’s election lies in the energy and grassroots work of the people involved in his campaign, particularly young people. In 2008, many youth who were not previously politically involved latched onto Obama’s call for change and went door-to-door, volunteered at call centers, and more. Youth also voted in higher numbers than in 2004. In that, I feel, lies the real potential for change in this election.

As a politician, Barack Obama is supposed to be accountable to the people he serves as president. He was elected largely because people felt that he represented values and political ideas that they agreed with, and if that connection can be maintained throughout his presidency, it will have a true impact on the way that politics in the United States are conducted. It is up to the people who got Obama elected – working citizens who form the bottom line of a democracy – to continue to keep Obama accountable to the ideals that he represented in his campaign. This in particular includes the youth who became politically engaged for the first time during Obama’s campaign, whether that meant volunteering for the campaign or simply voting for the first time. If that demographic continues to be politically active, then Obama’s election will have a much deeper and longer lasting effect. If that demographic is allowed or encouraged by the media to think that their involvement is over, and that Obama will simply take care of everything once he is in office, much of the energy and the true potential encompassed by Obama’s campaign will be lost.

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About Nodutdol eNews

Nodutdol eNews is the monthly e-mail newsletter of Nodutdol.Through grassroots organization and community development, Nodutdol seeks to bridge divisions created by war, nation, gender, sexual orientation, language, classes and generation among Koreans and to empower our community to address the injustice we and other people of color face here and abroad. Nodutdol works in collaboration with other progressive organizations locally, nationally and internationally as part of a larger movement for peace and social change.

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