“I hope I serve as an example.” OC’s first female, Asian American county court judge breaks barriers
News 12 is highlighting the contributions of Asian Americans in our community throughout the month of May for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
This week, News 12’s Blaise Gomez sat down with Hyun Chin Kim who is breaking barriers in more ways than one.
Kim made history last Novemberas the first Asian American, and first woman, to be elected as Orange County court judge. "When I was running, I didn't see anybody who was Asian American running for office…I think my election is a sentiment to this community that they look beyond race. They look beyond all this superficiality."
But during Kim's first few months on the bench, the nation also saw rising anti-Asian sentiment. "For people to actually distinguish one American from another based upon their race makes me very sad because it negates what my parents have done."
Kim immigrated to the United States from South Korea at the age of three. Her parents became U.S. citizens and owned a restaurant, where Kim experienced one of her first bouts with discrimination, delivering food while in law school.
Even now, after a 25-year distinguished career, Kim says she still feels different. "The three other county court judges are male, white judges. They are fully staffed, so they have a court attorney and secretary. I'm the only county court judge physically sitting in the county who has no staff."
Kim says she was told budget cuts are to blame and has since been allowed to hire a court attorney. "The terms racism and discrimination … it means a lot."
In her personal life, Kim and her husband address those issues with their two daughters, who are now 17 and 19 years old. "It's a continuing discussion since they were little. You show respect to others and others will show respect to you. And if someone is disrespectful, that is no reason to mirror that behavior."
A role model both at home and on the bench, Kim is excited to preside over her first trial and to make sure the less privileged get fair treatment under the law. "There are no barriers, especially now. I feel like there's this rise and sentiment of diversity, equality and inclusion. So now is the time to not think you have any barriers. I hope I serve as an example of that."