April 13, 2020
NCAPA Mourns the Passing of Former NCAPA Chair, Jin Sook Lee
Washington, D.C.— the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), issued the following statement on the recent passing of one of its founding members and civil rights leader, Jin Sook Lee.

We mourn the passing of Jin Sook Lee (1966-2020), one of the founding members and former chair of NCAPA, as the former executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). Jin Sook most recently served the Global Campaigns Director for the union Building & Woodworkers International (BWI) and worked to launch successful global campaigns focused on migrant workers’ rights, gender equality and trade union rights. We celebrate her passion and dedication to bringing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community together and extend our condolences to her family during this difficult time.

Daphne Kwok, the founding chair of NCAPA said,
“Jin Sook Lee was a leader. An AAPI community leader. An AAPI labor leader. She was also a mother and a great friend. When you are in the trenches together with someone literally fighting 24/7 together to get the AAPI community “at the table”, to have the needs of the AAPI community acknowledged, understood and “included” in federal laws and policies, you get to know an individual and that person’s core being. Jin Sook was at APALA when I was at OCA. She was part of NCAPA’s first leadership team, which I chaired. Jin Sook fought tenaciously, with grace, and with passion winning over anyone she met with because who could say “no” to her? One of our highlights during our NCAPA time along with NCAPA Officer Karen Narasaki, was to be on stage with President Clinton at a Rose Garden Ceremony marking May Asian Pacific American Heritage Month along with Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta. I will always remember Jin Sook from that White House Rose Garden photo as she broke out into laughter as I joked with President Clinton. AAPIs are several steps further ahead as empowered “Americans” because of the seeds that Jin Sook Lee has sown as part of our AAPI history.”
Karen Narasaki, former chair of NCAPA said,
“Jin Sook Lee was a compassionate, articulate and fierce advocate and organizer on behalf of Asian and other exploited workers. She helped to ensure AAPI workers had a seat at the table in shaping national policies as the first woman to lead APALA before moving on to her international work on the rights of migrant workers. Her voice will be very much missed.”
Lisa Hasegawa, former executive director of National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) said,
“Jin Sook was an incredible inspiration to me and so many new Executive Directors of national AAPI organizations. She was the first Korean American chair of NCAPA and was a strong progressive voice for workers and for our communities. She led with strength and conviction, but also with kindness and humor – it was so important for me to see and experience her style of leadership. We missed her dearly when she left DC to continue sharing her energy with a global worker movement, but we knew that wherever she went, she would be fighting for rights and justice. Jin Sook was instrumental in building our power, our presence and a national voice for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Her spirit lives on in all of us whom she mentored and supported.”
KaYing Yang, former executive director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) said,
“Jin Sook had a no-nonsense kind of personality and leadership style. After we left Washington, DC I worked in Thailand and Laos and she was in Korea. Every time she made a business trip to Thailand we would make time to meet up and reminisce about the Asian American political movement and also shared our experiences living in Asia. Her commitment to social justice was deep and she made a global impact.”
Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.