By Connor Adams Sheets
The office of state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) is building bridges to Asia in hopes of boosting its connection to the sizable Asian-American communities in his district.
The face of the newest iteration of this ongoing effort is 26-year-old Kyung Rok Park, a University of Seoul student who is living for 12 weeks in Hillside and working to help Lancman engage the many Korean Americans he represents in Albany through an exchange program facilitated by his school.
He is following in the footsteps of other students — including two who came from the University of Hong Kong this summer — who are helping Lancman build ties with some of his most important constituencies.
Park, who goes by “Steve” in America, said he has already learned a lot in the couple of short weeks he has been here and that he has enhanced his knowledge of community service. Upon graduation, he hopes to start a business based around helping others, in addition to working for his family’s automotive company in South Korea. Park has no interest in entering politics, although he said it informs all aspects of life including business, which is his major in school.
“I really enjoy doing this because when I graduate from university I want to start what’s called a social responsibility company,” Park said. “This experience helps me a lot to learn how I can help people and reach people, so I really enjoy it.”
Lancman said Park has been a great addition to his office’s team and his influence will be felt even once he has returned back across the Pacific. The most invaluable thing Park has been able to offer, Lancman said, is his ability to communicate with members of the Korean-American community and inform them about what Lancman’s office can do for them.
“For many Korean-American church leaders, community leaders and other constituents, English is not their first language, so he’s really been helpful in speaking with them, finding out what they need, establishing relationships and finding out what their concerns and questions may be,” Lancman said. “It’s a combination of community outreach, interacting with individual Korean constituents who have concerns, and also keeping me abreast of what’s going on in the Korean community.”
In his work for the assemblyman, Park also scans local Korean newspapers for stories Lancman should be aware of and liaise with the Korean language press on Lancman’s behalf.
“It’s very helpful for me to have someone who knows the language and the culture as well as how the Korean community is organized,” Lancman said.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.