Honoring Accomplished Leaders Who Display Great Leadership and Service

For the 2020 Empower Award, CKA has chosen to celebrate the Korean American men and women who have stepped forward in both their local neighborhoods and on the global stage to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and support those impacted by the scourge of this crisis. 

They are Korean American essential workers, healthcare providers, scientists, civic leaders, philanthropists, and business owners, serving faithfully and quietly with a heart of service.  In the eyes of their community members, they are heroes. 

All these individuals recognized this year were nominated by CKA members, supporters, and gala attendees for their heroic feats and achievements. By celebrating these few leaders, we also acknowledge that these individuals are only a small representation of the countless Korean Americans who are sacrificing and giving back in their neighborhoods, across this country and the world. We salute all of them and are proud that Korean Americans are making a difference everywhere, especially in these difficult times.

See below for Concert Pianist Alpin Hong’s and Professor Angella Ahn’s tribute to this year’s CKA Empower Award recipients.

Jonathan Chang

Assistant Principal, Panther Creek High School in Cary, NC

Mr. Jonathan Chang has been serving the most extensive public school system, Wake County in North Carolina, since 2006.

Read more

Nancy Choi

Advisor to GoLab, Avellino Lab and LifeSite

Ms. Nancy Choi has worked tirelessly on a COVID-19 solution, despite discovering, battling, and beating breast cancer during the pandemic.

Read more

Dr. Esther Choo

Center for Policy and Research in Emergency Medicine, Oregon University

Dr. Esther Choo has been the most visible and vocal Korean American physician in the media, advocating the best public health practices during this pandemic.

Read more

Melissa Early

Diversity Equity Inclusion Consultant at Truist Corporation

Ms. Melissa Early is a Korean American adoptee, soldier, single mother, diversity, equity & inclusion consultant.

Read more

First Lady Yumi Hogan

Office of Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland

Mrs. Yumi Hogan, Maryland’s First Lady, has helped her husband procure half a million coronavirus test kits from her native homeland of South Korea as the state faced burgeoning cases in April of 2020.

Read more

Susan Cho Jhin

Community Organizer, Houston Korean American Community

Ms. Susan Cho Jhin has tirelessly worked with the Houston Korean American community to strengthen its ties and position with the greater Houston Community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Read more

Dr. J. Joseph Kim

President & CEO, Inovio Pharmaceuticals

Dr. J. Joseph Kim is leading Inovio Pharmaceuticals in COVID-19 vaccine development.

Read more

Lorence Kim

Venture Partner, Third Rock Ventures

Mr. Lorence Kim’s work at Moderna raising $4.4 billion of capital for the company has helped deploy resources to discover and advance a pipeline of 24 development candidates across infectious disease, oncology, rare disease, and autoimmune disease.

Read more

TJ Kim

A 16-year-old Student Pilot

TJ Kim is making it his mission to deliver medical supplies to states along the coast as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Read more

Yul Kwon

Senior Director, Product Management. Google

Mr. Yul Kwon is an extremely accomplished individual. His role in improving COVID-19 exposure notification by developing contact tracing tools for smartphone users deserves special recognition.

Read more

Linda Lee

President & CEO, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York

Ms. Linda Lee’s commitment to helping others and leading to sustainable change in the Korean community makes her an unsung hero.

Read more

Dr. Ryan Seungjoo Lee

Major, Massachusetts Army National Guard

Dr. Ryan S. Lee is a practicing dental oncologist and implantologist with five bustling practices in NY, NJ, CT, MA, and RI.

Read more

Dr. Debbie Yi Madhok

San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center Director

Dr. Debbie Madhok is an emergency and intensive care unit physician at San Francisco General Hospital in the city’s Mission District, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more

Chase Park

President, Korean American Professional Network

Mr. Chase Park has led the Korean American Professional Network (KAPN) through many community service efforts during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 to protect and work with several Korean small business restaurants.

Read more

Katherine Yeom

Executive Director, Korean American Family Services

Ms. Katherine Yeom oversees the Korean American Family Services in Los Angeles, one of the most vulnerable communities hit hardest by COVID-19.

Read more

Mi Jung You

Senior Director of Programs, Korean American Family Service Center

Ms. Mi Jung You is an example of dedication and commitment, not only for our COVID-19 survivors but also for KAFSC’s essential frontline staff and the management team.

Read more