Kimchi Express has a new goal: to bring liberty to north korea


By: Meghan Carroll

Kimchi Express is playing for a unique cause in TBT 2020

In 2016, a group of friends from Fullerton, CA decided they wanted to play with the pros. So, they did what all people do: entered a team in TBT and named it Kimchi Express, a tribute to the popular Korean dish. 

As a team of Koreans, they wanted to represent their culture and community in TBT. The only issue? None of their friends played basketball beyond high school. So, after losing big in 2016 and 2017, the team started to add pros to the roster. It paid dividends and the team won its first-ever game in 2018.


Kimchi Express took last summer off and are back with a team made up entirely of pros for TBT 2020. Even more importantly, they've also teamed up with the organization Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) to help raise awareness for the North Korean people and their stories. Chun found it a great opportunity for his team to play for an organization that helps empower refugees from North Korea.

“North Korea represents one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today,” said LiNK Marketing and Communications Coordinator Marie Kim. “Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) works directly with North Korean refugees and on changing the way the world sees North Korea.”

Kim said that this isn’t an issue that is widely known by the American people. She hopes that through TBT more people will become aware of the cause.

“We hope more people will become aware of the movement for the North Korean people,” said Kim,  “and unite through a common love of basketball for this human cause.” 


Kimchi Express is far from the first TBT team to play for more than the money. Playing For Jimmy V is looking to raise funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Rearch. Team Challenge ALS is playing to help those affected by ALS. These sort of teams inspired Kimchi Express to branch out and play for an issue they care about.

“We really want the TBT community to be aware of what’s going on in North Korea,” said Chun. “It’s huge for us because obviously [the founders of the team] are Korean and that’s something we want to shed light to.”

While it's a cause near and dear to Chun and friends, their roster doesn't include any players of Korean descent. Despite this, he says they've all embraced the cause right from the beginning.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kimchi Express is unable to do as much with the organization in person as they had hoped. Chun said they had plans to make more videos and integrate the team with LiNK. 


However, he said that they’ve still been able to do outreach to the Korean community and get people excited for TBT.

“There's a lot of people that want to pay it forward and also understand the mission and understand where we’re coming from,” said Chun. 

The sense of community hasn’t been the only aspect helping the team evolve into what it is today, their improved roster has been an asset as well. 

Stockton Kings players Marcus Graves and Isaiah Pineiro, along with Utah grad and current international star Jordan Loveridge have joined the team. Their newest guard, Trey Davis, comes from the Maine Red Claws and is their only player from the east coast.

Loveridge said that Chun reached out to him on instagram, having remembered him from Utah and the Pac-12. After watching TBT over the years and learning about LiNK, he found Kimchi Express a great fit. 


“It’s one of the best tournaments around in the summer, so it seemed like a great opportunity,” said Loveridge

Kimchi Express has pledged $50,000 to Liberty in North Korea if they win, and with so much uncertainty in the world, Kim said that they hope this platform provides hope.

“We hope that TBT provides a platform to give North Korean refugees a voice,” said Kim, “and the world hope that Liberty in North Korea isn’t impossible, it’s inevitable.”