K. Connie Kang, The First Female Korean American Journalist, Dies at 76

K. Connie Kang, a pioneering female Korean American journalist, passed away last week due to pancreatic cancer at age 76. 

Believed to be the first female Korean reporter in the United States and the first Korean to work for a major American daily newspaper, Kang became the solitary voice of many Korean Americans soon after she came to work at the Los Angeles Times.

Kang was hired by the publication in the fall of 1992, in the wake of the infamous Los Angeles riots, to help in the proper coverage of Korean Americans in the area, the L.A. Times reports.

At the time, media coverage has framed the looting and destruction as a result of growing social and economic tensions between the Korean American and African American communities. This prompted the Korean American Journalists Association to urge the LA Times to hire a reporter who would cover the Korean American community fairly.

Kang’s family left what is now North Korea and moved to Japan when she was a young girl. In Okinawa, she studied in an international school, where she fell in love with the English language. Her family would eventually move to the United States.

Kang received her undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Missouri and later earned her masters in journalism at Northwestern University. She found work at the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner as a staff writer soon after graduation. She also wrote a regular column for Koreatown Weekly.

K.W. Lee, the founder of Koreatown Weekly, highlighted Kang’s contribution not only to the journalism industry as a whole but also to the community of immigrants she has come to represent with her work.

“She was almost a saint,” Lee was quoted as saying. “She was doing it because she felt not only an obligation to speak for the second generation of Koreans in America but also to speak for the voiceless and powerless immigrants who brought them here — most who were monolingual, many who ended up in ghettos.”

Kang who worked for the Times from 1992 to 2008, mostly covered the Asian communities in Los Angeles. According to former Times photo editor and Kang’s mentor Hyungwon Kang, many Asian Americans in LA felt comfortable bringing their stories to Kang.

“She would be flooded with calls from Korean Americans who wanted to get their stories out there because no one else in the mainstream media spoke their language,” Hyungwon Kang said.

A devout Christian, Kang decided to become a minister after retiring from Journalism in 2008. After graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2017, she then passed the U.S. Presbyterian Church’s ordination exam.

Kang, who included the names of her ancestors in the family’s memorial headstone last year, will be buried next to her parents and younger brother in the family plot in San Francisco.

Feature Image via Flickr/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

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