Cindy Ryu

“As an adult, I’ve been told to ‘go back to where you came from’—yes, in PC King County! Just because I’m getting in touch with my Korean-ness does not mean I’m less of an American.”


Five-year-old Cindy, outside the family home in South Korea.Kim collection

Top left: This photo was taken so Cindy’s father could see how his children were growing while he worked in Brunei. Kim collection

Right: The Kim family in America in the late-1970s. Kim collection

Bottom left: In 2016, Cindy was awarded the Grand Order of Honor presidential medal from the Republic of Korea. Ryu collection

Bottom right: The Kim family celebrating their mother’s 80th birthday in 2013. Kim collection

Seoul was emerging from rubble when Kim Sin Hi (now Cindy Ryu) was born in 1957. Her parents were determined to educate their children—even Cindy, the lone girl. In patriarchal Korea that was an uncommon commitment.

Her father became a migrant worker in Brunei and the Philippines before the family made its way to rural Lewis County in 1969. All four children graduated from college in America. Cindy received an MBA from the University of Washington.

At Shoreline in 2008, she became America’s first female Korean American mayor. Inspired by her parents, she is now a senior member of the Washington Legislature. Rep. Ryu believes a strong democracy requires the commitment of every citizen.