Our History

“It’s like how trees grow. You have to have a root to begin with, and the roots have to be strong to make a beautiful tree. That’s what KWA is all about.” 

Ok Sun Wilson, founding member of KWA

In the early 1970s, Kim Nam Hui, the Korean wife of an American serviceman, gathered together other Korean wives to share meals and cultural connections.

As time went on, the group had its first fundraiser – selling favorite Korean foods to other immigrants living at Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base.

As their numbers grew and they were able to raise more funds, the Korean women started providing more support to immigrants.  These services included providing transportation and translation services, as well as support to the women in domestic violence situations.

Known for their unique ability in helping those whose dreams were thwarted by language and cultural barriers, word of KWA’s cross-cultural compassion spread quickly. The organization grew exponentially through the 70s, officially calling itself the Korean Women’s Association (KWA).  KWA received its non-profit status and first grant from Washington State in 1979.


  • 1972: Group is gathering by Kim Nam Hui – beginning of KWA.
  • 1979: KWA registers as a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) community-based agency.
  • 1990: KWA changed its name from Tacoma Korean Women’s Association to the Korean Women’s Association of Washington State.
  • 1992: Approved to purchase a 2.6 acres land at 125 East 96th St. Tacoma – future home of KWA’s first headquarters
  • 1996: Awarded $2.2 million from HUD for elderly housing – Pacific Villa Housing Development Council.
  • 1997: 25th Year Celebration of the KWA. Started the Naturalization Program.
  • 1998: Opened the Pacific Villa – April 30, 1998, with 43 tenants.
  • 2001: Opened offices in Federal Way, Shelton, and Centralia.
  • 2006: Opened Orchard Project located in Roy, WA. – 5 section 8 low-income houses – 3 bedroom/2-car garages with yards, single houses.
  • 2007: International Place Apartments opened – 55 one-bedroom low-income, senior housing units.
  • 2009: Olympus Hotel opened for Low-income, multi-family housing – 49 units.
  • 2010: Opened Senior City Apartments in Federal Way, a 62-unit Transit-Oriented Development TOD senior living facility
  • 2011: Senior City recognized as the best senior affordable housing project in the nation In 2011 recognized by King County for Leadership in Affordable Housing and received the Green Globe Award.
  • 2017: Celebrated 45th Anniversary.
  • 2022: Celebrated 50th Anniversary. KWA received a Leadership Award from Korean American of Washington and a Proclamation issued by City of Lakewood.