In December 2010, Bernice Yeung from Colorlines profiled three women's groups: Korean American Women In Need (KAN-WIN), Arkansas Women’s Project and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, Texas. The following is the profile for the Korean American Women In Need (KAN-WIN):
- "Ten years ago there were no domestic violence organizations in Chicago that catered to the needs of Asian American women, let alone Korean American women. With nowhere else to go, women who faced violence in their lives often turned to Helen Um, a Koreatown community leader.
- "Once, a woman came running to Um in the middle of the night. Her husband followed, wielding a knife in one hand and a broken bottle in the other. As she had again and again, Um interceded. Finally in 1990, she and six other Korean American female activists founded Korean American Women in Need (KAN-WIN).
- "With little funding, the organization set out to serve as a liaison between battered Korean women and services. It set up a domestic violence hotline, began placing survivors in shelters, and finding culturally sensitive counselors. The leaders of the organization began taking training courses on domestic violence–ones taught in English and created for mainstream America. Then, KAN-WIN adapted all the pamphlets and lesson plans to its needs and translated the materials into Korean. “We were able to train other Koreans in Korean, and it evolved from training ourselves to community building,” said Inhe Choi, a founding board member.
- "And because race and culture play a key role in the lives of their clients, the organization goes beyond the role of service provider. “Domestic violence occurs because of social power structures where the roles of men and women are predefined, and domestic violence is how that power is played out,” Choi explained. “But it’s not just gender. Power is everywhere. Look at race and class and sexual orientation. We’re really trying to approach this issue much more broadly, crossing other issues of oppression.”
- "Choi continued, “My personal concern is that domestic violence stems from power injustice in society. Society is creating this issue, but the quick remedy, and the remedy that is most used, is the police and the courts. But in some ways, the state itself is an oppressor, so how much are we really revolutionizing? The system is convoluted: on one hand, we’re trying to change it, on the other hand, we’re working with it.”
- "Though the organization now receives federal funding, Choi said KAN-WIN is dedicated to 'maintaining our political edge through community organizing and education.' It negotiates the tension between its politics and government funding by dividing the responsibilities of its paid staff members and volunteer board members. 'Staff members, because they’re government-funded, have specific goals geared toward direct services,' Choi explained. 'So the volunteer board takes on the community work. The board takes on the work outside of direct services.'
- "This strategy has led the organization to participate in immigrant rights demonstrations and labor rights rallies. KAN-WIN also organizes community events, such as sponsoring Korean “comfort women” to travel to Chicago as part of a film festival showcasing a documentary on the subject. And the organization does extensive community education. Members go to Korean American churches, local schools, and community groups on a regular basis, broaching taboo subjects like dating violence and same-sex violence. 'Because it’s represented in mainstream media and they don’t see an Asian face, [Koreans] don’t think it happens to us,' Choi said. 'Our goal is to make sexual violence a community issue.'
- "KAN-WIN also puts its 40 volunteers through a rigorous 40-hour training session infused with politics and an analysis of oppression. Sometimes, the material is met with resistance. 'Some people don’t feel comfortable because of the political aspect,' Choi said. 'It’s a struggling point. How do you talk to a volunteer who is an immigrant woman who is retired and has good intentions, but may not be political at all? How do you talk about race and class, which makes them feel uncomfortable? Sometimes, people tell us that they didn’t come to get lectured on.'
- "According to Choi, KAN-WIN often brings up oppression by talking about class–something that immigrants can readily identify with–then drawing the parallels between racism and sexism. The organization asks the volunteers-in-training to analyze the expectations placed upon them as Korean women–bearing sons, serving men–in hopes that it 'wakes them up a little.'
- "'To end violence, we do things to change power structures and change how people think about women,' Choi said.
2009 15th Anniversary Fundraiser "Rooted in Movement"
Standing Up for Justice Awardees
- Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change
- The Honorable Luis Gutierrez, U.S. House of Representatives
- The Honorable Harold Koh, United States Department of State
- Korean American Women In Need (KAN-WIN)