Sukhee Kang

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Sukhee Kang
Mayor of Irvine, California
In office
December 9, 2008 – December 11, 2012
Preceded by Beth Krom
Succeeded by Steven Choi
Member of the Irvine City Council
In office
December 14, 2004 – December 9, 2008
Personal details
Born (1952-09-15) September 15, 1952 (age 63)
Seoul, South Korea
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Joanne Kang (1977–present)
Residence Irvine, California
Alma mater Korea University
Profession Politician
Korean name
Hangul 강석희
Hanja [1]
Revised Romanization Gang Seok-hui
McCune–Reischauer Kang Sŏk'hŭi

Sukhee Kang (born September 15, 1952) is a U.S. Democratic Party politician from Orange County, California. From 2008 to 2012, Kang served as mayor of Irvine, California, the first Korean American to serve in that position. On July 6, 2011, he announced his candidacy for the United States Congress,[2] but lost the election to incumbent John Campbell.

Early life[edit]

Kang was born at Yeji-dong near Jongno 5-ga in Seoul, South Korea to merchant parents from the city of Kaesong in what is now North Korea. He served military draft duty in the Republic of Korea Army from 1973-75 [3] and immigrated to the United States in June 1977 from South Korea after receiving his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Korea University in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul. When he was in a college, he joined the English debating club named Seoul PTC (Pine Tree Club) and served as the president from 1971-72.[4] He received an honorary doctoral degree in Business Administration from Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea in March 2011.[5]

He began his professional career at Circuit City as a sales and customer service representative for 15 years (1977–92),[6] then since 1992, volunteered at KASF(Korean American Scholarship Foundation),[7] KACF(Korean American Community Foundation)[8] and the Orange County Branch of Korean American Corporation, serving as the president in KADC(Korean American Democratic Committee).[9]

Early political career[edit]

Kang first got involved in politics following the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, during which more than 750 Korean businesses suffered extensive losses. Following the riots, Kang took on a more active role in civic and community affairs, and served as Chairman of the Korean American Coalition of Orange County and the Korean American Scholarship Foundation, Western Region.

Prior to his service on the Irvine City Council, Kang was a Governor’s appointee on the California Workforce Investment Board and was the Mayor’s appointee to the Irvine Finance Commission.

In November 2004, he was elected Irvine City Councilmember, and was re-elected in November 2006. He served twice as the Mayor Pro Tem. Kang served as a member of the Orange County Great Park Board, Orange County Sanitation District Board, Transportation Corridor Agency Board, Executive Steering Committee of the League of California Cities Orange County Division, and Orange County Transportation Authority Measure M Super Committee.[10]


In November 2008 Sukhee Kang defeated Christina L. Shea, a Republican councilwoman, with 52.2% of the vote,[11] to become the first Korean American to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city.[12]

Kang was elected to a second term in November 2010 after defeating Christopher Gonzales, a Republican Party candidate, with 63.21% of the vote.[13][14]

As mayor, Kang backed a $120 million deal with the Orange County Transportation Authority to lay the groundwork for a citywide public transit system.

Kang endorsed the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial and worked to achieve the unanimous Irvine City Council vote for its approval in December, 2009. The Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, dedicated on November 14, 2010, has 5,714 names of U.S. service members that lost their lives in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be updated annually as needed.

Personal life[edit]

Sukhee Kang is married to his wife Joanne Kang (née Choi) in 1977. His son, Alan, received a MBA from the University of Southern California, and is currently a management consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers. His daughter, Angie, is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, is currently an attorney at Hulu and was formerly an attorney at Latham and Watkins' Los Angeles office. Sukhee was honored by the Father's Day Council of Orange County as Father of the year in 2012.[15]

Electoral history[edit]

General Election November 4, 2008
Irvine Mayor
Candidate Votes Percentage
Sukhee Kang 27,534 52.2%
Christina L. Shea 25,189 47.8%
General Election November 2, 2010
Irvine Mayor
Candidate Votes Percentage
Sukhee Kang 23,841 63.2%
Christopher Gonzales 13,879 36.8%
Open Primary Election June 5, 2012,
U.S. House of Representatives, California's 45th District[16]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Campbell 54,346 51.0
Democratic Sukhee Kang 35,182 33.0
Republican John Webb 17,014 16.0
Voter turnout  %
General Election November 6, 2012,
U.S. House of Representatives, California's 45th District[17]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Campbell 170,339 58.5
Democratic Sukhee Kang 120,831 41.5
Voter turnout  %