Speech at The Beautiful Foundation Grant Award Ceremony

Hello. My name is HJ Lee, and I am the founder and president of KoreanAmericanStory.org. I would like to tell you about the genesis of KoreanAmericanStory.org. It started with several snapshots that have dwelled in my mind that symbolize my Korean-American experience.


Pictures by Tim & Sarah Kang, © 2010 Tim Kang or © 2010 Sarah Kang

The first image is from 1973 of my mom in Jamaica, Queens: It’s late, and she’s sitting by a lone lamp threading beaded necklaces, hundreds at a time, to earn some extra money to help make ends meet.

I have another snapshot: It’s 1983, I’m walking on the upper West Side one early morning just as the sun was rising, and I pass by a Korean green grocer. He is sitting on a box of fruit, polishing apples before placing them gently on a perfectly stacked display.

I carried these snapshots in my mind for many years because it represented the archetypical Korean-American immigrant experience. But I always wondered – had anyone ever captured these images? What about their stories? Would my children or their children know about the early struggles? I didn’t want them to be lost forever.

Today, the Korean-Americans community is becoming more diverse culturally and ethnically, and will likely continue to be so into the future. As we evolve as a community, it becomes imperative to document and to preserve our stories for future generations.

KoreanAmericanStory.org supports and promotes the creation of art in all media that explores and reflects the ever-evolving Korean-American story. In addition to the works of art that are being collected and created for our website, and various events we sponsor, there are two large initiatives that we have begun scoping:

– First, an Interactive Korean American MAP or iKAM, that displays historical demographic trends along with social, historical and political context over a time line from 1885 to the present day

– Second, a documentary film on influence of Christianity in Korean-American Immigration and History I am grateful to acknowledge that we have been awarded the seed funding by the Beautiful Foundation to begin the development of the Interactive Korean American Map (iKAM).

I believe that the leadership of the Beautiful Foundation understands the importance of creating permanent works of art depicting the lives of Koreans in America. In addition to documenting the stories of individuals, KoreanAmericanStory.org desires to document the stories of fellow nonprofit organizations, including some of the fellow grantees of the Beautiful Foundation. In doing so, I believe we can support one another while leveraging the resources to optimize the work that we do for the Korean-American community.

Thank you.