Smiling broadly as he stood at the podium on the south lawn of City Hall after taking the oath of office Sunday, David Ryu took note of his historic election to the Los Angeles City Council.
“I am humbled to be the first Korean-American City Council member, and the first Asian American to stand here in a generation," he told hundreds of civic leaders and supporters, many of them Asian-American. Mike Woo is the only other Asian-American ever to serve on the council. He served from 1985 to 1993.
"I am proud to lead my community through these doors to take our rightful place sharing in the leadership of Los Angeles," Ryu said.
But Ryu, 39, noted another significant fact about his election in a city that's sometimes seen racial rivalries erupt during elections.
"I am even more proud that I was sent here by the neighborhoods with very few Asian-American voters," Ryu said. Ryu's 4th City Council district is about 7.4 percent Asian-American. It stretches from Los Feliz to Sherman Oaks.
"I was chosen not because of my ethnic heritage," he said. "I was chosen because I made the commitment to the people of the 4th to put our neighborhoods first.”
Ryu was escorted to the stage by his parents. During his remarks, he thanked family members who had come all the way from Korean to attend the ceremonies. He called his grandmother, the first of the family to immigrate to the U.S., his "hero" and "inspiration."
She was a "reluctant immigrant who became the proudest of citizens" and valued most her privilege to vote, he said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, the city controller and most of the City Council attended the event. Former L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke issued the oath of office to Ryu during the ceremony. He once worked for Burke.