Svetlana Kim: To the Stars Through Adversity
Svetlana Kim is an international speaker, community advocate, spokesperson for the 2011 Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, bestselling author of White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee, and founder of Svetlana Kim LLC.
White Pearl and I: A Memoir of a Political Refugee chronicles her journey from Russia to the United States, where she arrived with only one dollar in her pocket and not a single word of English at her disposal; today, she is a leader among her peers in the business world, and has been honored with numerous awards citing her commitment, skill, and integrity.
Svetlana Kim’s remarkable story opens in Leningrad, Russia, on a frigid winter afternoon. Standing in the bread line for the third day in a row, she listens as her neighbors discuss the impending fall of the Berlin Wall. Life as a student in a crumbling country offered few possibilities for the ambitious young woman, so when a former classmate offers her a plane ticket to the US., she jumps at the opportunity.
She arrives in New York speaking no English, with only a dollar in her pocket. With the help of a good samaritan, she travels by bus to California, hoping to connect with an acquaintance from home. Yet, when she mistakenly disembarks in San Francisco instead of Sacramento, she finds herself penniless and alone. What unfolds is a miraculous story of survival as Svetlana encounters kind strangers while she struggles to cobble together a meager existence working as a cleaning lady. Determined to succeed, she lands a job selling cosmetics. Within a few years, her hard work carries her up the corporate ladder. She earns American citizenship after living ten years as a political refugee, and gains the opportunity to become a stockbroker. In her career as a stockbroker Svetlana is introduced into the realm of powerful businesswomen and politicians.
Through it all, when her nerve threatens to fail her, she returns to memories of her grandmother, White Pearl, whose parents immigrated to Russia from Korea. As a girl, White Pearl was among 200,000 Soviet Koreans deported to central Asia by Joseph Stalin, who feared they would spy on behalf of the Japanese. Svetlana reflects often on her grandmother’s tales of that hard time, drawing on the strength of her beloved babushka to enable her to make the very best of her own life. White Pearl and I is a modern and uplifting account of Svetlana’s tireless search for the American dream.
Kim has been featured and profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, MSN Money, MSNBC, Women’s Life magazine in Seoul, Korea; the Asian Fortune; Networking Times; NASDAQ’s Closing Bell; and The Gazette, a publication of the Library of Congress.
Kim shares her business acumen and managerial experience by serving on several boards of directors, including: the Asian Division Friends Society of the Library of Congress (Board Vice President, 2007 – present); the Global Advisory Board of the Euro-American Women’s Council (2007-present); the National Council of Asian American Business Associations (East Coast president, 2009 – present); the Asian Leaders Association (2007-present); the Pacific Coast Immigration Museum (Board member, 2009-present); and Korean American Women’s Chamber of Commerce (Board member, 2009-present). She also serves as a steering committee member of the Global Coalition for Korean reconciliation.
Committed to giving back to her local and worldwide community, Kim has donated over 180 hours in eighteen months to the Calvary Women’s Services in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she volunteers at the Office of Presidential Correspondence in the White House.