Hana Kim is All About Saving Innocence

August 1, 2014
(Joanne Pio/Courtesy of Hana Kim)

(Joanne Pio/Courtesy of Hana Kim)

By Tae Hong

In 2010, Hana Kim ruffled a few feathers when she flew off to South America for almost six months immediately after releasing her debut EP, “Until You Believe.”

(Joanne Pio/Courtesy of Hana Kim)

(Joanne Pio/Courtesy of Hana Kim)

During that pivotal promotion period, she was sitting on Paraguayan streets talking music and life with strangers and teaching kids how to sing and play the piano.

Four years later, the 26-year-old California native is still treating her music — soulful, Norah Jones-esque sounds — as a means to serve what she calls greater causes. Her most recent song, “Heaven Sees Me,” was written for Saving Innocence, an organization fighting domestic human trafficking.

Her initial interest in human trafficking came from a documentary called “Nefarious,” directed and produced by filmmaker Benjamin Nolot. The documentary, as well as further research into the issue, convinced her human trafficking needs a bigger spotlight.

“It became a rabbit hole,” she said. “I didn’t mean to get so involved, but once you start learning, you can’t really turn the other way. The story got deeper and deeper. I got sucked in and was really just shocked at the injustice.”

According to Saving Innocence, there are 27 million victims of human trafficking working as slaves worldwide, a majority of them women and children. In the U.S. alone, 100,000 to 300,000 children face the risk of becoming victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

“A part of the problem is that we’re not noticing it,” she said. “Our culture is not really doing anything to notice it.”

Hana Kim with local kids during a volunteer trip to Paraguay.

Hana Kim, top left, with local kids during a volunteer trip to Paraguay.

Charity work is no stranger to Kim, from multiple trips to Paraguay to overseas Christian missions to Thailand and North Korea.

Those trips have helped her gain a diverse fanbase as well — she came back from her trip to Paraguay with a television appearance under her belt, which gave rise to a South American following for Kim.

A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, Kim was born in San Jose and grew up playing the piano and saxophone, singing and writing music. She wrote her first instrumental song when she was 13, encouraged by a family of entertainers — her grandfather a playwright, her mother an actress, her aunt a classical singer — and equipped with the ability to play music after listening to it.

A single, “Almost Famous,” was released in 2012; a year later, she dropped her first full-length album, “Exodus.” She’s since performed at notable venues like the Hotel Cafe and the Ford Amphitheatre.

There is definite allure to the idea of becoming a mainstream artist, especially in this day and age when crowds of Korean Americans are lining up to become the next big K-pop star.

But Kim likes her freedom, something the Korean industry model does not yet offer. She can play at live shows and write her own music in the indie scene here.

“When you start, you always want to make it in the industry. But then as you start doing it, you realize that the term ‘making it’ is so vague,” she said. “You don’t really know if you’re ever there.”

It all comes back to making and sharing music that can make an impact for a bigger cause for Kim.

“That’s absolutely what I want to do with human trafficking, is get people talking about it, get them to join in the conversation, hopefully be encouraged enough to use their time, talent and money for causes like this,” she said. “I hope that my music always has a message and that there will be an audience that wants to share that message.”

Kim will perform at a free show to raise awareness and support for the issue, held Aug. 2 at Busby’s East in Los Angeles.

Visit the Saving Innocence website for more information on domestic trafficking. Busby’s East is located at 5364 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.