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.
At our City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 9, we issued a Korean-American Day Proclamation, celebrating “the long and prosperous journey of Korean Americans in the United States” due to their “strong family ties, community support, and hard work.” Accepting the proclamation on behalf of the Korean American community were a number of Irvine Korean American civic leaders, including my friend and appointee to the Irvine Senior Council, Juneu Kim.
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.
As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep connection to Korea and a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our nation.
I am proud to live and serve on the City Council 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.
Happy Korean American Day!