Writing the World into Words
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Grace Moon has the kind of adventurous spirit that leads someone to ride the subway to random stops and pop out to take photographs of whatever she finds. Her curiosity makes her a great reporter, and her passion for Asian-American rights inspires her to bring stories to fruition.
Moon was born in California and raised in Texas, but her home is 7,000 miles away in Seoul, South Korea, where she spent many summers growing up. Her grandparents escaped to South Korea from North Korea during the Korean War, but she still has family members in the North. She warmly remembers her grandmother’s tales of ice skating there in the winter as a little girl.
“When we think of North Korea, we have this image of red flags, guns and Kim Jong-un,” Moon said, “There’s so much more to it, and people don’t see it because mainstream media outlets won’t report on anything but missiles, missiles, missiles. North Korea is a country with real people who smile, who cry, who have friends. They’re people like us.”
With her grandparents in mind, Moon has channeled her passion for issues in North Korea into her campus engagement at NYU. In her role as president of Freedom for North Korea, she leads weekly meetings to make North Korea a subject of campus dialogue. This week, she organized an event, along with the Feminist Society at NYU and Advocate Coalition – Against Trafficking, to shed light on sexual trafficking among women who have fled North Korea. She also serves as media director of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, a newly-minted campus organization for Asian-American rights, where she manages social media accounts, takes event photos and maintains the group’s online presence.
Audrey Gregg, a CAS junior and vice president of FFNK, spoke of Moon’s wealth of knowledge on Korean issues.
“Grace is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, and working with her in FFNK has been great,” Gregg said. “She’s a tireless worker and clearly very educated on a variety of different socio-political issues that affect the Korean peninsula and East Asia in general.”
Moon is certainly well-informed — she starts each day off with a coffee and the New York Times — but she also has the media chops to spread awareness and tell stories that need to be told. That’s why she’s double-majoring in Media, Culture and Communication in Steinhardt and Journalism in CAS; interning at the CNN News Bureau from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Sundays; and serving as editor-in-chief of NYU’s chapter of HerCampus, an online media platform for women’s empowerment.
Moon believes in standing in solidarity with other communities on campus, and she uses her writing as activism. When she writes profiles, she types quickly and without looking at the keyboard, her eyes locked on her subject and her cool, calm demeanor leaving the interviewee at ease. On a Tuesday night, she spoke eagerly to the organizers of Contra Cuentos, a night of performances from artists in the undocumented and immigrant community, and she had the corresponding article up on HerCampus in a matter of hours.
While Moon uses her writing to lift up other marginalized communities, she also hopes to defy Asian-American stereotypes through her reporting. She derives particular inspiration from the Asian American Journalists Association, where she’s met other writers who have similar cultural backgrounds and who have faced the same struggles she has. Her Asian-American identity, Moon explained, poses particular challenges that she wants to combat.
“I think it’s very often that Asian-American female journalists are just seen as that Asian girl, not for who they are,” she said. “I get called the wrong name a lot, even in the classroom setting … Just the idea of being seen as passive, submissive, quiet, shy.”
Yet Moon is anything but that. She loves talking to people, and it shows in the enthusiasm with which she engages in conversation with just about anybody. She puts her amiability to good use — last year, she connected with the New York City Housing Authority through the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence. When NYCHA checked Korean tenants’ apartments for mold, she used her bilingual abilities to mediate between the Korean-speaking tenants and their English-speaking landlords.
“Landlords tend to take advantage of tenants, and we’d fight that,” Moon said. “That was one of the most crucial starting points to my introduction to and real passion for Asian-American rights. It was really eye-opening to see what these tenants went through every day.”
All of Moon’s work, from her activism within NYU to her journalistic pursuits, is in the interest of advancing opportunities for Asian-Americans.
“Every day I’m defined as a stereotype,” she said. “Journalism helps me defy that stereotype by speaking out on issues and reporting issues that are important.”