On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 Korean laborers arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields. This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
From these humble beginnings, a large and vibrant Korean American community has grown, now numbering nearly 2 million people of Korean descent in the United States, including nearly half a million people in California.
Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.
Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities,” and has begun planning for the construction of a traditional Korean garden in Col. Bill Barber Park next to Irvine City Hall.
As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our country.
I am proud to live in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.