Troy restaurant owner expands efforts to help refugees and immigrants

July 11, 2018 06:56 PM

TROY -- Shortly after opening her popular Korean restaurant Sunhee's Kitchen on Ferry Street in Troy, Jinah Kim began closing in the afternoon to offer free English lessons to staff.

She makes a point to hire some immigrants and refugees who have the proper documentation, and she wants them to move on quickly to better jobs.

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"Most of our staff are refugees and immigrants and people who are coming here to learn the language and who want to better themselves and move on through our work culture, so we feel that language is the number one barrier when it comes to assimilating and integrating into society," she said.

The restaurant supports her other efforts.  Kim recently bought two long-vacant buildings around the corner on Fourth Street.  

She's in the process of doing extensive renovations and one ground floor space is devoted to Sunhee's Community Place, where there are free English lessons for anyone who wants to join.

They've even taken students on field trips, including to the New York State Museum.

Kim is keenly aware of the controversy surrounding immigration.

"We hear so many negative things going around," she said.  "And a lot of politics around the issues.  I really believe when you get to the center of it, it comes down to the human stories."

She says news of policy changes and ICE action has created so much confusion and fear that even properly-documented workers worry they'll be targeted.
"I know it sounds really crazy, but that's how much fear is going around our communities, is that even if you do have papers that you're not welcome here, that you're not wanted, and I think that in itself is sending the wrong message."

As the number of students grows, Kim is looking for volunteers to help teach English lessons and one-on-one computer education.

Anyone interested can contact her at


Kumi Tucker

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