On May 11th, the Korean American Community Foundation (KACF) held its annual gala at Cipriani Wall Street to celebrate its 20th anniversary, with ABC’s Juju Chang emceeing the evening’s festivities.
The sold-out event brought together nearly 900 Korean American leaders and community partners and raised a record-breaking $4 million.
KACF President Kyung Yoon also revealed the Foundation’s plans to scale its impact nationally.
“We could not have done this work without you, our supporters,” said Kyung Yoon. She added, “I also want to thank our nonprofit grantee partners – the heroes and backbone of our community, making a difference in the lives of struggling individuals and families, and serving them with compassion, empathy and deep understanding.”
The event also honored three individuals for their achievements in elevating the Korean American community: Joseph Y. Bae, Co-CEO of KKR (Honoree); Lee Jung-jae, Actor and star of Squid Game (Honoree); and Michelle Zauner, bestselling author of ‘Crying in H Mart’ and head of the Grammy-nominated band, Japanese Breakfast (Trailblazer Award).
Highlights of the evening included:
Michelle Zauner received the Trailblazer Award and described the “profound and healing in stories that show our community in all its complexity.”
Michelle Zauner is best known as a singer and guitarist who creates dream, shoe gaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She won acclaim from major music outlets around the world for releases like Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017). Her most recent album, Jubilee (2021), earned two GRAMMY nominations for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album.
Her first book, Crying in H Mart, a New York Times Best Seller, is an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean-American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. She’s currently adapting her memoir for the screen for MGM’s Orion Pictures.
Joseph Bae, honored for his long-time support of KACF and leadership in advancing Asian American philanthropy, shared about how his experiences growing up as a first generation Korean American immigrant shaped his commitment to give back and made a call to action to the room to “step up and do the positive work our community needs.”
Joseph Bae joined KKR in 1996 and is its Co-Chief Executive Officer. Prior to his current position, he served as Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer from 2017 to 2021, and he has been a member of the board of directors of KKR & Co. Inc., since July 2017. Mr. Bae has held numerous leadership roles at KKR. He was the architect of KKR’s expansion in Asia, building one of the largest and most successful platforms in the market. In addition to his role developing KKR’s Asia-Pacific platform, he has presided over business building in the firm’s private markets businesses, which included leading or serving on all of the investment committees and implementing the firm’s modern thematic investment approach. Mr. Bae serves on the firm’s Inclusion and Diversity Council. He is active in a number of non-profit educational and cultural institutions, including co-founding and serving on the board of The Asian American Foundation, serving as a member of Harvard University’s Global Advisory Council and serving as a member of the Board and Executive Committee of the Lincoln Center.
Bloomberg.com: KKR’s Night Out Sees Co-CEO Joe Bae Joined by ‘Squid Game’ Star
Lee Jung-jae, took the stage to be honored for his global impact and uplifted the power of K-Content in breaking through cultural barriers and bridging the divide that is often caused by language barriers.
As the star of Netflix’s global megahit, Squid Game, Lee Jung-jae made history as the first Asian actor to win a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and to win a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series, for his role as Seong Gi-hun, the main protagonist. He is one of the most prolific and successful actors in South Korea.
Julia Riew, the 22-year-old Harvard senior who became a social media sensation for creating her own “Korean Disney princess” musical, was joined by her friends Natalie Choo and Caron Kim on stage to perform “Dive.”
TikTok fans embrace the soaring song of a Disney-inspired Korean American princess
Funds raised from the event will support the KACF’s mission to empower families and individuals living in poverty to grow self-sufficient and thrive.
About KACF: Since its inception in 2002, the Foundation has awarded over $10 million in grants and provided culturally competent capacity building assistance to nonprofits addressing economic insecurity in the Korean and wider Asian American community. Equally important, KACF has fostered a culture of giving among Korean Americans, mobilizing the power of philanthropy to give rise to long standing change. Learn more about KACF at kacfny.org.
Click here to see more photos from the party.
Lia Chang is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them.
Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.
Lia’s awards include the 2022 Prospect Muse Award, the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award and the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com