Groups Seek More Korean American Census Participation | WBEZ
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Korean American Groups Launch Census Outreach Effort

Korean Americans are the latest immigrant group in the Chicago area to establish a complete count committee to boost participation in next year’s census.

Leaders from more than a dozen Korean American groups kicked off their new complete count committee Monday at the Korean American Association of Chicago offices on the city’s Northwest Side.

Inhe Choi, executive director of the HANA Center, one of the groups leading the census outreach, said Korean Americans face many of the same challenges as other immigrant communities in the Chicago area.

“The attack from the Trump administration on immigrants has really permeated widely, even citizens and green card holders are worried,” Choi said. “The worry has really gotten people questioning everything by the government.”

Choi added that the “hard-to-count” populations in the Korean community include North Korean refugees, adoptees, foreign students, seniors, and survivors of domestic violence. “Trust is a big issue,” Choi said. But even completing the form itself can be challenging, given the language barriers for many Korean immigrants, she added.

In attendance were State Sen. Laura Fine and State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, both Democratic lawmakers representing north suburban Glenview and surrounding communities, where a sizable percentage of the Chicago area’s Korean population lives.

U.S. Census Bureau Assistant Regional Manager Ellisa Johnson said there has been a slow uptick in the number of Korean American residents in Illinois.

“We have 102 counties across Illinois, and 97 of those counties are occupied by a very vibrant Korean American population,” Johnson said. “That’s very significant.”

According to census bureau data, Illinois has the highest Korean population in the Midwest. The Chicago metro area is home to the fifth-largest Korean population in the United States, behind the metro areas for Los Angeles; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle.

Also on Monday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the two census co-coordinators who will help lead the state’s outreach efforts. Oswaldo Alvarez and Marishonta Wilkerson bring non-profit and government experience to the roles; they will lead Illinois’ Census Office within the Illinois Department of Human Services. That department is currently in the process of evaluating applications for $20 million in state grants available for census outreach.

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