Candidate would be Los Angeles' first Asian-American councilman in 20 years

BongHwan Kim

courtesy of BongHwan Kim

BongHwan Kim is running for the Los Angeles City Council's Thirteenth District. If elected, he would be the city's first Asian-American council member in 20 years.

The general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment filed papers today to run for the Los Angeles City Council’s Thirteenth District, where a victory would make him the first Asian-American councilman in 20 years.

BongHwan Kim joins a crowded field in a district that includes parts of Hollywood, Silver Lake, Filipinotown and Thai Town. Kim, who lives in Glassell Park, will have to move into the district as the redistricting process kicked the neighborhood out of CD13.

The redistricting process also saw the Korean-American community become actively engaged in discussions about building an Asian-American coalition and protecting the Koreatown community. Kim, a Korean-American, would be the first Asian-American councilman since Mike Woo left the CD13 seat in 1993.

Members of the Korean-American community “see me as somebody who has both experience working inside government, but also somebody who has worked in communities,” Kim told KPCC. “The diversity of the district is something that is very attractive to me.”

“The demographics of this district, I think, are a great fit for my background, and I could relate to that district probably more than any other district in the city,” Kim said.

Under the redrawn maps, which still require final approval from the Los Angeles City Council, about 19 percent of the Thirteenth District will be Asian-American. Asians will also represent 22 percent of constituents who are eligible to vote in the district.

“The number one way to register voters is to give people candidates because that gives them a reason to vote,” said Ronald Wong, a political consultant and president of Imprenta Communications Group.

Other Asian-Americans said to be considering a run for the district include John Choi of the Board of Public Works and Alexander De Ocampo, a former president of the California Young Democrats Association. Deputy Fire Chief Emile Mack has already filed papers to run in the district.

“People are just circling now,” Wong said.

Kim is the former executive director of the MultiCultural Collective. He is a graduate of Boston College and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.

Kim has spent the last five years working with neighborhood councils.

“I see that there is a growing need for improving the way that city government works with local neighborhoods and I’m a big believer in participatory democracy,” Kim said.

The Thirteenth District seat is currently held by Councilman Eric Garcetti, who will be termed out of office next year. The primary will be March 5, 2013.

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