The Bar Report – November 14, 2011
Wan-Mo Kang is a partner with Fox Rothschild in Princeton, where he practices general corporate law. Born in South Korea, he represents major Korean companies as well as small and mid-sized Korean-American businesses and individuals. He is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Asian Pacific American Lawyers of New Jersey.
Kang is also a founder of the Korean Community Center of Greater Princeton, which honored Fox Rothschild for supporting its mission by presenting it with its Outstanding Friend Award on Sept. 17, 2011.
Q: What brought you to the U.S.?
A: I went to college in Korea before coming here in 1981. I came here to pursue a Ph.D. in political science, but I did not finish the degree. Instead I went to law school.
Q: How did your interest in law develop?
A: I was a student activist in college. In the 1980s Korea was under military dictatorship. When I came to the U.S., I actively participated in organizing the Korean-American community to support democracy and human rights in Korea. In the 1990s, Korea got a civilian government. That’s when I decided to go to law school. I thought the legal profession would allow me to help the ever-growing Korean-American community.
Q: You were 40 by the time you graduated from Rutgers School of Law – Camden. Did that help or hurt?
A: I would say it was an advantage, during law school and after. I was mature. I knew what to say, and how to act.
Q: What was your experience integrating into American society?
A: American society is basically a society comprised of immigrants. Theoretically they welcome immigrants, but in practice I would say there is some unwelcoming atmosphere. There is some conflict and tension. That is something we immigrants have to deal with every day. For me, a first generation Korean-American whose native language was not English, becoming a lawyer and going up the ladder at a law firm was not an easy task.
Q: Does New Jersey have a growing community of Korean-American lawyers?
A: Yes, lots. The children of first-generation Korean-American immigrants are going to professional schools.
Q: You started fundraising for a Korean community center in 2007. Why?
A: We want to preserve Korean culture and convey it to the next generation, but we also want to share our culture with non-Korean people.
Q: Your sons are 20 and 22. How strong is their identity as Korean-Americans?
A: Pretty solid. We spoke Korean to them and sent them to Korea over the summer when they were younger.
Q: How is the fundraising going?
A: I’m very optimistic. Here in the Princeton area, there are about 5,000 Korean people. In five years we raised more than $1 million. In August we bought 6.4 acres of land in West Windsor. People now see something real is going on.