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The James Joo-Jin Kim Center for Korean Studies and the Phillip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation co-hosted a joint colloquium featuring 6ABC News Anchor Nydia Han on Feb. 28. Credit: Jean Park

6ABC News Anchor Nydia Han spoke at a joint colloquium co-hosted by the James Joo-Jin Kim Center for Korean Studies and the Phillip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation on Wednesday.

Han spoke in front of a group of 20 students, faculty, and community members in the Kim Center for Korean Studies. The discussion, hosted by center director and sociology professor Hyunjoon Park, centered on Han's experience embracing her identity as a Korean-American and her fight against Asian hate through the lens of broadcast journalism. 

Han began the discussion with her journey from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism to her current position as co-anchor for ABC News. When she was entering the field, Han said she discovered that Korean cultural norms, including deferring to elders, were “contrary” to newsroom etiquette that depended on self-advocacy. 

"I learned a lot about how to navigate the workplace in a way that for me seems a little counter to how I grew up,” Han said. “Because I felt like you know, you don't ask the questions. But you don't wait until you're told in the news business. That doesn't really work in your favor.” 

Han said her ability to stand up for herself, be capable of confrontation, and practice nunchi — a Korean practice of situational awareness — are some of the significant life lessons that have aided in her career today. 

“I think my superpower is nunchi because of the way I can talk to my boss and tell stories in a way that other people can be kind of challenged,” Han said. “I think so many people are used to seeing the world just through their own lens and thinking about what they want. And I think by being taught to think about what other people want has been really helpful for me in business.” 

This colloquium is the inaugural event in a new speaker series initiative that is being spearheaded by Park. He said that he hoped these discussions would provide the community with a means to listen to “experts” in various fields that showcase “the diverse interests and talents of the Asian community.” 

“Our mission of the Korean center is not just to look at Korea from a narrow perspective,” Park said. “But we want to see Korea as a comparative perspective, where we can put Korea into the global context and really address what the global challenges are and how the Korean case can help address them.”

In 2017, Han was crossing a crosswalk in Center City Philadelphia when she was almost hit by a car. After Han confronted the driver, the driver fled, shouting “this is America” at Han. Han's response to this driver, uploaded on Facebook Live, went viral, garnering 3 million views. The short video sparked nationwide discussions of race and identity. She said that many, regardless of race, resounded with the message that “we are all American.” 

Han’s initial video kickstarted her digital series #ThisisAmerica, which explored the “diverse experiences that make up what it means to be American.” In the first episode, Han said, “My diversity, my color, my culture, and all the things that come with it helped me to contribute to my country. And so I'm taking ownership of those words you threw out the window.” 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of Asian hate, Han continued to fight for accurate Asian-American representation and against discrimination. She said that in her position as a journalist, she felt like she had a responsibility to report and shine a light on Asian-American hate.

“Unfortunately, quite often in large part because of the model minority myth, there is this idea that we're just never the victim and that it never has anything to do with being Asian,” said Han. “So, it was important that we were there as representatives in our newsroom to say we need to dig deeper.”

College first-year Ellie Chang appreciated Nydia Han’s authenticity and vulnerability. She said that she felt it was important to “show up and really experience Asian culture” by hearing and learning from others.

Park told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he hopes that this series will help promote the Kim Center as a “community space,” where students can come together and share collective experiences while educating themselves about Korean culture and studies. He referenced the Undergraduate Fellow Award and weekly Thursday colloquiums as ways students can get involved. 

“I think as important as having a big, long-term grand plan to attack anti-Asian hate is every single day telling our stories," Han said. "Because telling our stories, and in my opinion, by mainstreaming the minority is how we change the narrative so that people see us as the Americans we are, rather than foreigners, interlopers, or whatever you want to call it."