Soo Hong loved school as a youth in her native South Korea, so her family’s move to the United States when she was 10 was difficult.
“I went to school and did not know what to do at all, and it was very frustrating,” Hong said, recalling early years growing up in Cobb County.
Through teachers and volunteers, however, the school and community embraced her as she and her family pursued the “American dream.” Struggles turned to success, as she graduated a HOPE scholar, went to college and eventually became a lawyer.
And now Hong, 41, wants to return the favor as begins her first term Jan. 1 in the Georgia Legislature, representing parts of Gwinnett and Hall counties in the House 103 District. The Republican won election in November to succeed Timothy Barr, who ran unsuccessfully for the 10th District congressional seat.
“I want to make sure that I’m listening to the people and what their issues are,” said Hong in an interview at the Gwinnett County Courthouse in Lawrenceville. “My door is open.”
Her interest began at home, hearing about Korean politics from her father.
“That got me interested in politics in general and in how government runs,” Hong said.
She interned at the Georgia State Capitol after college and law school — experiences that further stirred an interest in public service. She said she turned to law because wanted to be an “advocate for people.”
“I wanted to work with and for people in my community. I wanted to have meaning in my work,” Hong said. “I saw politics as a way of doing that on a bigger scale than what I’m doing in my law practice, representing people in my community and their different interests, not just their legal interests.”
She said she also saw a need to spread a conservative message and values to a diverse population.
“I saw the lack of that in our party,” Hong said.
Looking ahead to her two-year term, she said that as a freshman lawmaker, “I really want to learn the whole process. I want to make sure I understand the appropriation process of budgeting. When you understand the budget, that’s going to allow me to understand where we’re spending money, where we’re not spending money and … where we should be spending money.”
Hong added: “The No. 1 interest for me is we’re not wasting taxpayers’ money in our state.”
The state’s economy is especially important to her, as part of her practice is handling bankruptcies.
“I want to make sure small business owners are continuing to get out of COVID and be successful,” Hong said.
But there are other needs, such as law enforcement and education.
“Transportation is huge, and it’s not just about traffic but … we need to make sure we’re looking ahead and we control that,” Hong said.
Otherwise, just like when she was a youth absorbing a new culture and language, “I love learning.”
“This new job as a representative is going to allow me to also learn in areas and issues that I’ve never been exposed to,” Hong said.
Family: parents and one brother
Priorities in office: the budgeting process and how public dollars are spent, transportation, public safety and education