January 13 has been designed “Korean American Day.” On this day in 1903, a group of 102 courageous Korean men, women, and children arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields. In the next few years, they would be followed by more than 1,000 Koreans entering the mainland from Hawaii through San Francisco.
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, cuisine, and arts.
Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities.”
Irvine is also the home of the King Sejong Institute and the Korean American Center of Orange County, dedicated to promoting Korean language and culture.
As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and proud recipient of the Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir fighting for freedom for the Korean people, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans hve made to our city, our county, our state, and our country.
I am proud to live and serve in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my many Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.
Happy Korean American Day!
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