Paul “PK” Kim is a man with lofty goals and a seemingly insurmountable mission — to unite and empower Asian American communities everywhere, foster young talent and educate the mainstream public about the so-called “model minority.”
Mighty grandiose for just one person, right?
But as the mastermind behind Kollaboration, an Asian American talent competition that now spans five cities nationwide, Kim is well along his way to achieving his vision.
“Growing up, we did not have anybody on TV except for martial artists, dry cleaners and liquor store owners,” Kim said in a video interview via Skype. “We weren’t represented three-dimensionally.The more people see Asian Americans in movies, TV and live shows, the more people will understand our emotions.”
The son of a Korean preacher (The ‘PK’ stands for ‘Preacher’s Kid’), Kim grew up in Burbank, CA, feeling somewhat isolated from the norm. “I always felt left out, definitely felt inferior. I always had that chip on the shoulder, I was Asian American but never felt American, but didn’t fully fit in ‘Asian’ either,” he said.
The lack of a strong Asian American community didn’t help Kim’s identity crisis either. “It was so scattered … The kids didn’t have anything to bring them together.”
In 2000, Kim began Kollaboration to fill that void. Starting out as a mostly Korean American talent show, Kollaboration has mushroomed over the past decade into an all-inclusive affair featuring some of the biggest up-and-coming Asian American names.
“It became more of a movement just to get as many Asian Americans onstage — empowerment through entertainment,” Kim said of his brainchild. “If we don’t do this, nobody is going to do this.”
Even though Kim has recruited a dedicated team, the movement didn’t happen overnight.Adequate funding has always been an issue that plagues each event. “It’s hard to even get three Asians together to eat at an Asian restaurant,” Kim joked, “and the biggest haters can come from your own community.”
Among the worst naysayers have been some of the parents, who sometimes don’t understand their kids’ hobbies and passions, at least until they witness a show.
“Parents come to our show and say to us, ‘We’ve learned more about our kids tonight than whole year long.'”
Eventually Kim hopes Kollaboration can become the “Showtime at the Apollo” for Asian Americans, a powerful launching pad for young artists. Kollaboration has already helped highlight groups who have made the national spotlight such as hip-hop dance group Kaba Modern and pop quartet Jazmin, recently a finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
“This is our identity on stage, we’re an entire group caught between identities,” Kim said. “There was a newspaper in Seattle that read, ‘American beats Michelle Kwan,’ Well, Michelle is American too. There is a perception that Asians aren’t American. Entertainment is the best way to let Americans know that we are American as well.”
Kollaboration NY will take place on June 27th at 8 p.m. at NYU’s Skirball Center at 566 Laguardia Place (Doors at 7:30 p.m.). Mochi is an official Kollaboration NY sponsor. For information on the contestants, read our rundown here. See our interview and photo shoot with Kollaboration guest judge and Gossip Girl star Yin Chang here. Tickets can be purchased here.