A PUBLIC STATEMENT BY UNION SUPPORTERS AT KRC

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November 7, 2019

Korean: 노동 권리를 지지하는 민족학교 실무진의 공개 성명서

Since Monday, November 4, false and malicious statements have been made about the Korean Resource Center (KRC) and our former Executive Director, Jonathan Paik. We write to you as current and former KRC staff to set the record straight and shed light on the actual injustices that have occurred at this organization under the leadership of Board President Dae Joong (DJ) Yoon.

In the past two weeks, three of the longest-serving staff at KRC submitted their resignation to protest the Board President DJ Yoon. The three staff who resigned include the Executive Director (Jonathan Paik) and two of the longest-tenured staff (Yongho Kim and Jenny Seon). Yongho worked at KRC since 2006, when our youngest staff was barely 10 years old. Yet, Yongho quit in protest of DJ and the KRC Board.

For the past 20 years, DJ Yoon recruited idealistic members of the community to join KRC, only to exploit and steal their labor, causing them to leave the organization beleaguered and isolated from the immigrant rights movement. Afraid of relinquishing his control, DJ Yoon has held an unrelenting grip over KRC for decades. In recent months, the KRC Board, led by DJ Yoon and fellow Board members, Inbo Sim and Angela Oh, have divided the organization and acted viciously to drive out emerging leaders who have steered positive changes at KRC and in the community.

The ways that their insecurities have manifested in the past few months have been shocking:

  • Board President DJ Yoon and Board member Inbo Sim manufactured a false and nonexistent budget crisis to justify laying off nearly half the staff;
  • DJ and Board members retaliated against 11 current and former staff members who had asked for DJ’s resignation through a workplace complaint letter;
  • Board members engaged in union-busting tactics when staff unionized;
  • Board members enabled then-Program Manager Young Ran Kim (a long-time friend of DJ and Inbo since the 1990s) to publicly spread false information about Jonathan Paik demanding his resignation; and
  • After Jonathan’s resignation, the Board installed Young Ran Kim as de facto Executive Director of KRC.

The series of events that played out are disturbing and go against every value that we thought KRC stood for. DJ Yoon, Inbo Sim, Angela Oh, and Young Ran Kim must be held accountable for the harm and irreparable damage they have caused to KRC and KRC staff.

Below is a summary of the events that transpired:

I. KRC Board President DJ Yoon and Board Member Inbo Sim Sensationalized a Nonexistent Budget Crisis to Lay Off 50 Percent of KRC Staff

After a 10-month sabbatical, DJ Yoon returned to KRC as Board President in July 2019 and immediately went to KRC’s accounting books. Beginning in August 2019, DJ Yoon and Board member Inbo Sim–both of who are financially illiterate–sensationalized a nonexistent budget crisis to justify laying off 50 percent of KRC’s nearly 30-person staff. Creating a scapegoat for this financial “crisis,” they placed the blame on KRC’s Executive Team comprised of Executive Director Jonathan Paik, Legal Director Jenny Seon, and Director of Digital Yongho Kim.

The Board demanded that the Executive Team come up with layoff plans letting go of half of KRC staff. DJ repeatedly texted the Executive Team demanding that the layoff plan go into effect immediately. However, the Executive Team disagreed with the Board on the state of KRC’s financial health, and refused to implement the layoff plan without proof of an actual crisis. At the same time that DJ demanded layoffs, he secretly promised select staff that they would get raises and a budget for a new program pending Board approval, which was all but certain.

Troubled by the Board’s lack of transparency, on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, a majority of staff, calling themselves the “Concerned Staff,” demanded that the Board hire an independent finance expert to determine whether KRC was in a financial “crisis.” Only after staff pressure did the Board finally hire two independent financial consultants agreed upon by both the Board and staff, to assess KRC’s financial health.

At an all staff and Board meeting on September 10, DJ put on a show, appealing to the older Korean staff, including Young Ran Kim, by saying how sorry he was on behalf of the Executive Team for the financial crisis, and that the Executive Team had made unforgivable mistakes. Seeing this, an older monolingual Korean staff scolded and shamed the Executive Team and demanded that Jonathan, Jenny, and Yongho apologize for creating this financial mess. The Executive Team made multiple apologies for this financial crisis, which still only existed according to DJ and Inbo’s unreliable accounting.

Over the weeks, almost every time that DJ and Inbo brought up KRC’s financial health via email, the size of the deficit would change from –$500,000 to –$1 million to –$280,000. They stoked fear among staff claiming that KRC was “bleeding,” that KRC would go bankrupt, and that KRC would not exist at the end of 2019.

At one budget meeting, Angela Oh yelled at and criticized several young staff for using their rightful vacation days to attend the wedding of a former KRC staff, instead of fundraising to fix the budget crisis weeks before the annual gala. These staff have all fundraised for KRC and developed work plans taking into account their vacation days and fundraising goals. Angela Oh and Inbo Sim shamed the Executive Team for “failing to arrange staff’s vacation time” as another strike against them. In contrast, Angela Oh herself and other Board members never showed their own fundraising efforts and had claimed to lack the networks to fundraise—their primary job as Board members—demonstrating an inability to fulfill their fiduciary duty.

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, the two independent financial consultants presented their findings at an all staff and Board meeting. One consultant, a nonprofit accounting expert,  assessed KRC’s revenue projections, and the other consultant reported on KRC’s accounting issues. Each consultant independently confirmed that there is no budget crisis that would result in KRC shutting down; and that KRC would likely end the year in a surplus or without a major deficit. One report found that the Executive Team had made great strides to raise money for KRC and that Jonathan Paik acted in good faith to correct KRC’s past accounting mistakes, which Inbo Sim, Angela Oh, and DJ Yoon had used to accuse Jonathan of insubordination.

Additionally, the report made the following findings:

  • The Board has failed to uphold their fiduciary duty to KRC, has exhibited gross incompetence, lacks members with any accounting or financial knowledge, and has been packed with personal acquaintances of founding (or founding-adjacent) KRC members (i.e. DJ Yoon).
  • The Board is in violation of the Nonprofit Integrity Act for lacking an Audit Committee, and the Board-hired CPA is also the auditor of KRC, a clear conflict of interest.
  • DJ Yoon’s suspicious finance practices would be grounds for investigation. For example, in the summer of 2019, upon his return from sabbatical, DJ pressured KRC’s then-Finance Manager to give him access to the accounting books despite the CPA’s strong recommendation that DJ not be allowed access in keeping with basic accounting principles. Still, DJ forced his way in to obtain improper access to KRC’s accounting books.
  • Current Board members were found to have been “cosigning organizational mortgages” and “receiving commissions on KRC’s purchase of real estate and subsequently receiving a tax credit by making an in-kind donation of their services.”

When this independent consultant presented his findings at the October 29 meeting, Young Ran Kim attempted to cut his presentation short to stop him from presenting the damning results of his investigation. DJ (via conference call) and Inbo, both financially illiterate, attempted to argue and fight with this independent consultant about their dubious accounting practices. Staff aligned with Young Ran along with Angela Oh walked out of the meeting before this consultant completed his presentation.

Despite two independent financial consultants confirming the absence of a financial crisis, the Board has refused to take responsibility for dividing and fear-mongering the staff about KRC’s finances. To this day, to save face, DJ and Inbo continue to make false claims that the independent consultants are wrong and that KRC remains in a financial crisis.

II. Concerned Staff of KRC Demanded DJ Yoon’s Resignation as Board Chair, and DJ Yoon and Board Members Continue to Retaliate Against Them

In late September, current and former KRC staff known as the Concerned Staff of KRC drafted a workplace complaint about DJ Yoon Board President including unpaid overtime wages, abusive treatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, and creating a hostile and toxic work environment. When the Concerned Staff presented the complaint to the Human Resources (HR) Committee of the Board, one of the committee members explained away the complaints as “cultural difference,” expressed reluctance in sharing this with the rest of the Board, and ultimately declined to confront DJ because it might hurt his feelings.

Due to the Board Committee’s inaction, on October 1, 2019, the Concerned Staff emailed the workplace complaint letter with 11 personal accounts to DJ Yoon (and cc’ing KRC management), demanding that DJ resign from his position as Board President. The complaint letters included accounts of over-working female staff to exhaustion, lack of accountability as a supervisor, pressuring undocumented community members to disclose their immigration status publicly, punishing staff for whistleblowing on his friends, and sexual statements that DJ made to female and male staff at KRC. Given the personal and sensitive nature of the letters, we requested that he not share our letters publicly out of respect for our privacy and consistent with HR practices.

However, after we emailed DJ, he immediately retaliated against the Concerned Staff. Despite our explicit request to DJ that our letters not be shared externally, DJ forwarded our private statements to his wife, EunSook Lee (who shared it with an unaffiliated staff person), to other family members, to former KRC interns, and to community members without our consent, in violation of our privacy.

The following morning, Angela Oh responded to our letters by criticizing us, gaslighting us, and victim-blaming us for demanding DJ’s resignation. Her email stated that our actions were “mean and hurtful.” She trivialized what we wrote; assumed we were ignorant about the history of KRC; claimed we lacked nuance about racism, sexism, class inequality, immigration status, etc; questioned our motives; continued to blame the Executive Team for the “financial crisis;” and made DJ to be a martyr of the movement. As a Board member, she made clear that she stood with DJ.

In the ensuing weeks, DJ Yoon continued to actively retaliate against the Concerned Staff for our letters. He and other Board members enabled Young Ran and select staff (“Young Ran’s group”) to file false and baseless complaints about the Executive Team that also targeted specific Concerned Staff. In a follow-up email sent to Young Ran’s group, DJ thanked them for their complaints, called the Concerned Staff the “rotting flesh” of KRC that needed to be “cut away,” and commended Young Ran’s group for “slapping” us into our senses. [DJ’s email and English translation]

Additionally, DJ’s wife, EunSook Lee, a foundation director and former NAKASEC ED, ghostwrote a workplace complaint for another staff, targeting a female Concerned Staff member, slutshaming her, sexually harassing her, and falsely accusing her of getting special treatment. Again, this was clear retaliation by DJ and his wife against this Concerned Staff for writing a letter demanding DJ’s resignation.

In addition to retaliating against Concerned Staff, DJ Yoon, Angela Oh, and Inbo Sim attempted to frame, harass, and push out the Executive Team who they erroneously thought were spearheading the Concerned Staff. Inbo Sim and DJ Yoon repeatedly accused Jonathan of fraud (keeping two books), and continues to spread this vicious lie to KRC staff and Board members without any evidence. They only momentarily backed off of the accusations after realizing that the Board and John Choi, Board Treasurer, would be implicated if their false accusations gained traction. Even though an independent investigation exonerated Jonathan, Inbo Sim continues to spread false information.

According to Jenny Seon’s former client, Angela Oh and DJ’s wife, EunSook Lee, traveled a total of four hours to meet with this former client so that they could find “dirt” on Jenny and have grounds to fire her. They could not find anything. This is not Angela or EunSook’s first time scouring to find incriminating information about Jenny through her former clients in order to damage her professional reputation.

It is disappointing to see the extreme lengths that the Board will go and the harm they are willing to inflict to protect the ego of one man.

III. Concerned Staff Decided to Unionize in Response to the Board’s Retaliation

Witnessing the Board’s retaliation and harassment, Concerned Staff believed we needed to unionize. We consulted with experts and attorneys, other unionized nonprofits, and several unions. We then sought a majority of KRC staff support to unionize with the Machinists District 947 who we believed best suited our needs. The process was proper, legal, and morally necessary. To protect our right to unionize, we did not disclose our early organizing effort to certain Board-loyal staff because we had evidence of their collaboration and rightfully feared retaliation and union-busting.

Our process for unionizing was as follows: More than 50 percent of eligible KRC staff signed union authorization cards. The staff who signed the cards included service staff, organizers, administrative staff, immigrants, Koreans, and non-Koreans. These cards were certified by an independent third party to confirm that a majority of eligible staff had signed the authorization cards. Presented with a majority of staff support, Jonathan Paik, in his role as Executive Director, voluntarily recognized the union to support workers’ rights.

Angered by Jonathan’s pro-labor action, Board members DJ Yoon, Angela Oh, and Inbo Sim immediately engaged in union-busting tactics, misinforming and exploiting Young Ran’s group to discredit the union, exacerbate the divide among the staff, and target Jonathan. To justify revoking Jonathan’s voluntary recognition of the union, Angela Oh falsely asserted that the Executive Director is not an “employer” and therefore has no right to recognize a union. She then wrote that “his action should be corrected.” We were baffled that someone who works at the Department of Fair Employment and Housing either knew so little about the union process or would deliberately mislead the staff about proper process in order to de-unionize us.

As it stands, the union process was legitimate and the union is lawful. Our full union statement can be found here.

IV. Accusations in then-Program Manager Young Ran Kim’s Statement Condemning Jonathan Paik Are False and Unfounded

Young Ran Kim’s press release that was publicly disseminated on Monday, November 4 is full of blatant falsehoods. Despite her lies and outright hostility, she was recently promoted to KRC’s de facto Executive Director. Our response to her groundless claims is as follows:

She claims that first generation immigrant womxn are excluded from the union. However, this is wrong. Our unionization efforts were led by Concerned Staff—namely womxn of color and immigrant womxn—who felt powerless in light of the abuse committed by DJ and the Board. The first gen staff have always been included in the bargaining unit and are not excluded from being in the union in any way. The collective bargaining committee has yet to be decided, and we have maintained clear communication channels between all eligible staff and the union. In fact, it was Young Ran who deliberately refused to meet with the union on several occasions.

Any allegation of a generational divide caused by Concerned Staff is unfounded. When the Concerned Staff first came together in September to ask for an independent finance expert, we invited and welcomed all staff, including limited English proficient Korean staff, to discuss the situation and sign onto a letter. However, it became clear at later meetings that certain staff had no interest in joining us. One staff belittled and shouted at a Concerned Staff member. They continuously echoed DJ’s sentiments, and we found confirmation that they were actively communicating with DJ. During the union organizing process, we had substantial reasons to believe they would not support our efforts to unionize and would wage counter-campaigns. However, we never lost sight of the fact that we unionized for everyone and hoped that everyone would join the union.

Claims about KRC’s English-only policy are absurd. No such policy exists. KRC always tries to hold bilingual meetings and has one of the strongest bilingual infrastructures for a nonprofit in the country. Just to be clear, the labor of interpreting for staff and translating documents often falls on the 1.5- and 2nd-generation Korean Americans at KRC, which is not easy, not part of our job responsibility, and goes unrecognized and unpaid. Still, we always try our best to create as inclusive and equitable a space as possible at KRC for both monolingual Korean staff and its growing non-Korean staff.

Young Ran Kim’s complaint about Jonathan Paik committing wage discrimination is groundless. As staff, we can confirm that Jonathan, along with Jenny Seon and Yongho Kim, have regularly advocated for wage raises for all staff. At the time that she publicized the false statement against Jonathan Paik, Young Ran Kim was the highest paid program manager at KRC. In an interesting twist, shortly after Jonathan resigned, Young Ran Kim has now become the de facto Executive Director of KRC.

Needless to say, the attacks on Jonathan Paik are false, damaging, and malicious. Jonathan inherited the deep-rooted problems of the Korean Resource Center from DJ Yoon, was set up to fail, yet did his best within the constraints. Jonathan has been a good leader for the organization and has put in his all to ensure that he, together with KRC staff and community members, could help build the progressive community here in Southern California.

The fact that DJ Yoon, Inbo Sim, Angela Oh, and Young Ran Kim pushed Jonathan Paik, an emerging leader, out of the organization because they refuse to let go of their power and control is a shame for the movement and for the community. Allowing them to continue to hurt people and damage reputations—particularly those who came to KRC to do good and have done good—would be a travesty for the movements and communities we are a part of. They must be held accountable for the irreparable damage they have caused.

We believe the public has a right to know the truth, and the truth is what we have presented to you. This cycle of abuse must end now.

If you have any questions, we would be happy to speak with you. Please email us at liverightly.org@gmail.com. You may find more information about these events at this website, at liverightly.org .

Signed,
Union Supporters of KRC – including Jenny Seon, Nara Kim, Yongho Kim, and others