Jan. 25—The Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts and the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Center for Korean Studies this month are recognizing the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration to Hawaii.
The Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts and the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Center for Korean Studies this month are recognizing the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration to Hawaii.
The UH center is slated to host a symposium Thursday that spotlights Korean female immigrant leaders who made significant strides in education, social work and promoting Korean culture as their community established itself in Hawaii.
The Office of Culture and the Arts has installed a photography exhibition in Honolulu Hale's courtyard that will be in place until Feb. 10. The photos, taken by Marie Ann Han Yoo, depict Korea's postwar period and the Korean immigration to Hawaii. Also, on display in the city's Lane Gallery are 40 rubbings from the tombstones of early Korean laborers, taken from cemeteries on Oahu and Maui.
The challenges for the early Korean arrivals were unique among immigrant groups here, said Duk Hee Lee Murabayashi, president of the Korean Immigration Research Institute in Hawaii. "They struggled here, and at the same time had to help Korea become an independent country, " she said.
Successfully establishing their community in Hawaii was especially notable, considering their numbers were significantly smaller than other ethnic groups at the time, Murabayashi added. According to the, Koreans made up 2.5 % of Hawaii's population, while Chinese residents accounted for more than 11 % and Japanese residents, 41.5 %.
Korea had recently become a protectorate under Japan, and many of the early Korean immigrants worked particularly hard to send money to support Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai and Korean independence movements, Murabayashi said.
Some of the women who will be discussed at the symposium also contributed to these efforts in various ways, said Tae-Ung Baik, the UH center's director.
"They were very active in engaging in social work and activism, especially because Korea had lost its own sovereignty to Japan completely in 1910, " Baik said. "They had gone through a lot of different challenges, and especially in kind of a stateless situation. ... Their lives will be very inspiring " to hear about at the symposium.
The photo exhibit on display at Honolulu Hale's courtyard depicts the spirit of Koreans as well as the social and political conditions of their immigration, according to a news release. Additionally, it highlights important aspects of their everyday life such as the importance of family, intergenerational living, social clubs and churches.
According to the news release, photographer Yoo is the only known Korean American who documented the Korean postwar period from 1956 to 1957.
Despite making up a smaller portion of Hawaii's population, the Korean community in Hawaii has come a long way since its first immigration here, Baik said. Over the course of generations, it established its own unique culture and identity while laying the groundwork for the successful Korean Americans of the present.
The symposium is a free event and open to the public. It's scheduled to be held 11 :30 a.m. to 3 :30 p.m. at the Center for Korean Studies auditorium. To learn more, visit.------Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.
Correction : An earlier version of this story misstated the year of Korea's loss of sovereignty.