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Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, by Ilyon

This 13th century historical classic, written by a monk, merges myths and folktales into the ancient history of Korea.

Everlasting Flower: A History of Korea, by Keith Pratt

Published in 2006, this history of Korea provides a broad perspective on the traditions, culture, ancient foundations and recent divide of the peninsula.

The History of Korea, by Djun Kil Kim

Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations–publisher’s description: The Koreas are two of the few countries in the East Asian world to successfully maintain political and cultural independence from China.

Korean Residents in Japan: 80-Year History by Sang-hyun Kim

Valuable for its first-person eyewitness viewpoint on prewar issues in Korea and Japan, during the occupation.

Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History by Bruce Cumings

A “modern” history, most of the focus is on the 19th and 20th centuries, and the early section highlights important features of the peninsula’s changes.

Introduction to Korean History & Culture, by Andrew C. Nahm

What makes this history book different from the others is Nahm’s exploration of cultural change in light of historical change, including in the arts and traditions.

A Concise History of Korea by Michael J. Seth

If you will read only one book about Korean history, this is the one. Seth organizes and edits Korea’s rich and vast history into a digestible and coherent whole, covering its legendary origins and through the 19th century.

A Student’s Perspective

When Anne Frank was about my age, she documented her life hiding in her attic from 1942 to 1944 in her diary. During the horrific World War II time, she was not only confined to a small space but lived in fear. Getting flour for a birthday cake was a luxury and she had limited supplies of everything.

One Day in Early July 1950

It happened to me on a day in early July 1950. I was a student in the first grade of Bosung Middle School located in Hyaewha Dong, Seoul, Korea. At this point, I will explain Korean political and military situations.Korea was emancipated on August 15, 1945, out of Japanese occupation for 35 years since August 29, 1910. Korea has been divided between South and North Koreas soon after the Japanese Surrender on August 15, 1945, and South Korea established the Democratic Government on May 10, 1948, under the leadership of President Syngman Rhee. There was the complete and permanent division of the Korean Peninsula across the latitude of the 38th Parallel North and hostilities between these two divided Countries including the frequent military clashes.

Why Korean American Churches Need a Makeover
K-Dramas & Chill

During the COVID-19 quarantine, many people have tried new things while stuck at home, like baking sourdough bread or crocheting. Of course, it’s hard to be productive 100% of the time when you can’t leave your house, so the most popular quarantine activity by far is probably binge-watching TV. When we first started self-quarantining in our apartment in the Boston area, my fiance and I were already halfway through the k- drama Itaewon Class on Netflix.

Kwan Chung

Kwan Ho Chung was born in South Korea in 1937, during the year the Second Sino-Japanese War began. Growing up, he heard stories from his mother about his father’s college education in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania. He made his way to America to retrace his father’s journey, visiting the University of Pennsylvania campus in person and learning about his father’s educational history there. Mr. Chung would spend years piecing together his father’s story in America and publish a biography titled “Father’s Footsteps.” Eventually, Mr. Chung would also come to live in the United States, in search of more opportunities for his sons and a new life in a new country. His father’s story motivated Mr. Chung to seek opportunity and fulfill his own ambitions, continuing a remarkable legacy of determination and perseverance.

BLM From the Eyes of an Asian American Teenager

Being an ally means spreading awareness, signing petitions, donating if you have the means to do so, and calling out racist behavior. Being an ally as an Asian American means doing all of the above, while also looking at the specific ways in which we have either perpetuated or been compliant in allowing racial injustices towards the Black community to continue. Now more than ever, it is important for us to step up in support.

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To capture, create, preserve and share the stories of the Korean American experience by supporting and promoting storytelling

LA BLM Protest | May 31, 2020

This morning I asked my mom if she wanted to go to the LA protests with me. I wasn’t sure what she was going to say or if I was dishonoring her by asking this question because of our family’s painful memories connected with the LA Uprising decades ago. In the ‘92 Uprising, we lost our family business, which led to bankruptcy and set off a series of devastating circumstances in our family’s history. But surprisingly, my mom responded, “Of course, we must go. I was going to ask you to go together.”

Dirty Asian

I’ve been in quarantine since March 16, as the school that I teach at decided to close a week earlier than DOE schools.

Business As Usual

Ahmaud Arbery. 
Ahmaud Arbery.
Ahmaud Arbery.

Yuri Doolan

Dr. Yuri Doolan was born in an Air Force base to an American father and Korean mother who met in Korea during the 1980s.

Bonnie Oh

Bonnie Bongwan Cho-Oh was raised believing in equal education for both men and women.

Ji-Yeon Yuh

Ji-Yeon Yuh came to America at age 6 with her mother joining her father who was finishing his doctorate in Chicago.

Doug Kim

As a youngster growing up in the Mid-West he was frequently bullied by his peers for being Asian and was at a loss understanding how he was different

Five Korean American Candidates You’ll See at the Midterm Elections

The first — and only — Korean American to serve in Congress was Republican Jay Kim in 1999. Almost 20 years later, five Korean American candidates have the chance of running for the House. Three out of the five candidates also have the opportunity to make history as the first female Korean American in Congress.

Much like the Korean American community as a whole, the candidates that made it to this year’s Nov. 6th election come from diverse background experiences and represent a range of political stances. Meet the five candidates and explore their key issues:

The First Korean Olympian | Sohn Kee-chung 손기정, 1912-2002

With the opening of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February of 2018, the second such event in Korea after the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, it would be timely to remember the very first Korean to win an Olympic medal.

Celebration of Korean American Women Authors

Professor Minsoo Kang, who teaches European history at University of Missouri-St. Louis, opened up the stage with an introduction for 5 brilliant Korean American women authors to share their personal stories at the Celebration of Korean American Women Authors event, held on Dec. 8, 2017.

Heart & Seoul: Brace Yourself

As the parent of an Asian American child, do you brace yourself for that moment? Or what about as the parent of a Black child in America?

Profile of Tereza Lee

When asked how it makes her feel to be known as the “Original Dreamer” she responded, “I’m not sure it matters… some undocumented immigrants today are saying that they think the Dreamer rhetoric is something that throws our parents under the bus because it’s exclusive to a certain number of immigrants. We have to fight this one thing at a time and eventually we will fight for comprehensive immigration reform because that’s what this country really needs.”

Shelter by Jung Yun

This acclaimed debut novel deserves all the great attention and accolades it’s received. Both a turn-the-page thriller and a literary investigation of a family’s survival from trauma, both recent and decades old, the writing elevates the story into deeper understandings of the nuances in family relationships and how they seep into every act of living.

Korea in Grimmelshausen

Persian or Arabian merchants in China became aware of the Kingdom of Goryeo sometime after the foundation of the dynasty (918) and spread the name of the place across Eurasia in the distorted form of Corea or Korea. By the seventeenth century, Europeans were aware of the place that was east of China and in the vicinity of Japan, but there was so little information about the place that some sixteenth and seventeenth century maps show Korea as an island.2

It was in the same year that Simplicissimus was published that the very first European book on Korea that provided detailed information on the country by an actual traveler there appeared. The Dutchman Hendrick Hamel’s (1630-1692) Journal of the Unfortunate Voyage of the Spewer, is an account of how he and his shipmates were held captive in Joseon dynasty Korea from 1653 to 1666.3 The Dutch text was published in a French translation in 1670 and in English in 1704.

Names of Korea

For Korean Americans who are pondering the land of their ancestors, perhaps with a mind to writing about their heritage, one complexity they may face immediately is the confusing number of names for the country.

Annual Gala 2017

Special thanks to our honorees Martha Crawford, Jeannie Park, and Brian Tee for sharing their truly inspiring personal stories and to the incredible beatboxer and live-looper, Sung Lee, who amazed the audience.

Hyepin Im – SaIGu LA Riots

Hyepin Im, an MBA student in 1992, recalls how the media falsely portrayed Korean Americans as the main aggressors during the LA riots.

My Korean American Story: SoYeong Jeong

I’m a 21 year-old college student living in the Midwest. As the number of years I’ve spent in the States started to catch up to the number of years I’ve lived in Korea, my Korean-ness began to blur.

KRB Podcast: Agnes Ahn

In this week’s episode of KoreanAmericanStory with KRB 87.7. FM, retired OB-GYN Dr. Agnes Ahn talks about her mission: to teach accurate Korean history to K-12 teachers in Massachusetts. Through “Korea Studies” workshops, she has reached over 1500 students who have now learned the true history of Korea.

Asian American International Film Festival

We are happy to announce that we are partnering with the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) to promote the following programs!  Please take advantage of our 25% Community Partner discount rate for any program at AAIFF (excluding Opening, Centerpiece, and Closing Night).  Go to http://aaiff.org/2016/schedule and enter the promo code KASaaiff16 after you’ve added your desired ticket(s).

How Prince Saved My Life

As the news spread around the globe that Prince Rogers Nelson had died, I couldn’t control the way my body was trembling. My breath had been taken away and my body was trying to recover from the punch to my gut, to my heart.

Koreans & Camptowns: Reflections of a Mixed-Race Korean

This past September in Berkeley, California, I opened the doors to the David Brower Center, slightly nervous and excited, I stepped into a room filled with mixed-race Korean Americans attending the one-day Koreans and Camptowns Conference. Even though I grew up with my biological parents, I still carry the scars—physical and emotional—from being ostracized and bullied for looking different from the other children in my bucolic California communities. Many of the people attending the conference were Korean adoptees (KADs) who had even more reason to search through crowds to find someone who resembled them. Not only were most KADs raised in places with no other KADs or Koreans, but they also didn’t look anything like their adoptive parents and other family members.

How the Truth Can Hurt — or Heal

I attended the “Koreans and Camptowns” conference in Berkeley, Calif. last month after learning about this first-of-its-kind event from my friend Deann Borshay Liem, the documentary filmmaker who helped pioneer the event and whose storytelling I greatly admire. Frankly, I was hesitant to attend the conference because I knew the majority of attendees would be Korean-American adoptees. Would I fit in as a mixed-race Korean-American raised by his biological parents?

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Ms. Jwa Kyung Shin

Jwa Kyung Shin was born in 1914 in Korea. She was 100 years old at the time of the interview.

On Mothering

On Wednesday, the day before I was scheduled to be induced, my parents arrived from New York with enough food to last us through Hurricane Katrina. They opened their suitcase, and it spilled out with cellophane packets of seaweed, an assortment of dried fish, varieties of ground rice powder, sesame seeds, and other ingredients for postpartum concoctions.

My Korean American Story: Jacquelyn Chappel

Growing up, my mother did not teach my sister and me about Korea. She did not teach us Korean. She did not feed us Korean food, and by middle school, my sister and I balked at her stinky jars of kimchee.

Love Beyond Measure: Pega Crimbchin

Late one evening while mourning her late husband, Pega Crimbshin (nee Ock Soon Lee), 81, of Cabot, Pennsylvania, found a box that he had handcrafted and shown to her in January 1954. He had informed her that they contained important papers.

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The New “Model Minority” Profile of Rekstizzy

Rek’s love for music has been with him since his youngin’ days and he has always been drawn to many different genres. He loved 90s Kpop and was into learning the choreography.

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Profile of Artist Daru

I expected the artist Daru to be a mysterious and distant character, even more so due to her impressive credentials: a Bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Seoul National University in 1977 and a Master’s degree from the Pratt Institute in 1980.

Modern Korean Literature, Peter H. Lee

Translations of contemporary (up to 1990) Korean writings include poetry, fiction, essays, and drama, predominantly focus on the difficult, tragic and resilient history of Korea during the  twentieth-century.

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Without Remedy

A short story by Paul Cook.

A Chicano family with a gang history of slanging drugs and robbing houses moved in next to the Korean house. They wanted their smallest house on the block to mean something. The Korean mother said that their house was inhabited, though, by evil demons. The previous owner, a middle-aged-lady of the house, had a heart attack and asked her sons to call nine-one-one. Instead, they allegedly left and played basketball. When the teenagers came back, their mother was already dead and cold.

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The Choi Family

“The Choi Family” is a fictionalized account of the family, whose last name is “Cho”, and the events surrounding them after the Virginia Tech massacre.

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Divided Families: Profile of Filmmaker/Physician Jason Ahn

“Divided Families,” the documentary that Ahn co-directed and co-produced, tells the stories of Korean American immigrants who have been separated from family members in North Korea for more than fifty years as a result of the Korean War, which divided the country into north and south.

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Profile of Illustrator/Graphic Novelist Ian Kim

As a child, comic books were Kim’s gateway to art. Some of his favorite comics included Akira (“the greatest work of graphic fiction ever!”), Blade of the Immortal, Ghost in the Shell, Dragonball, X-Men and Generation X. Kim states, “Comics remain my main inspiration. I’m equally interested in storytelling and writing fiction, and comics are a synthesis of those two.”

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Considering North Korea

“What do you think about Korean reunification?”  The question came out of the blue. I was taping a Radio Free Asia interview about my just-released 2006 book, The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea. I had no idea what the correct response was. Having been told that the broadcast could be heard in the DPRK, I mumbled something generic about Koreans all being one people.

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I’m Not Cookie-Cutter

I’m 42 and I’m not successful, but I’m Korean American.  (Am I allowed to say that?)  My story begins in Seoul, Korea in 1970, the year of the dog, when I was born.  I was born into a very broken family.

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We Are One

Dangerous, isolated, and repressive. Growing up in Seoul and later in Portland, these were the words I was used to hearing about north Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea –DPRK) from my parents, media, and my peers. The image of north Korea was portrayed as being vastly different from south Korea (or the Republic of Korea –ROK). Due to this stark contrast between the two nations, I wanted to understand north Korea beyond the dominant narrative perpetuated by the US and the ROK. Furthermore, I wanted to know what was important enough to divide a nation and separate families for over 60 years. Like many Koreans, my family members were separated from each other and their hometowns after Korea was divided. I was not satisfied with an explanation that blamed north Korea’s “communism” as the reason for this division and absolved south Korea of any responsibility. There had to be more to this story.

Turn to the East, by Caroline Singer and C. Le Roy Baldridge

As a piece of “living history,” this fascinating large-format volume brings together the narrative of Caroline Singer and artwork of her husband, Roy Baldridge, of their year (likely 1924-25) in the Far East, including Japan, Korea and China.

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Homecoming

When my father was a young American soldier stationed in reconstruction era Japan, he and his sweetheart back home exchanged letters describing their shared dream, “to see the happiness of people who have found, for the first time, perhaps, a doctor who will help them even if they’re poor.”

“My ideas were turned toward medical missionary work way back, long before I could ever judge the idea rationally,” my father wrote to my mother. “The urge behind it… was a desire to feel needed… I’d get very little excitement out of a city doctor’s life… It’s the combination of medicine and being needed that made up my main interest for the idea!”

The Korean Americans, by Brian Lehrer (The Immigrant Experience series)

A middle-grade book that appears to be part of a series on the immigrant experience.

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Legacy Project Video Montage

Legacy Project is an oral history project to capture the stories of the Korean Americans .

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My Korean American Story: Diana Yu

In the late fifties, following the Korean conflict, things were so bad in Korea that people tried to leave the country any way they could. College students were no exception.

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My Korean American Story: Matthew Salesses

I am reading I Wish for You a Beautiful Life right now, for the first time, suggested to me by another Korean adoptee. It is a book of letters from birth mothers to their babies, letters I wish had come packaged with us.

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Faith in Action

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to read the book “0 Hour”, an autobiography written in Korean by Mr. Ki-Chang Kim (b. 1917).  The book retells a captivating story of his experiences through much of the dominant events of 20th century Korea and later immigration to the U.S.  The following is a summary introduction and translation of three portions of the book.

The immigration story of Mr. Kim and his family is itself remarkable, though in certain aspects perhaps familiar.  But it is his entire life story that is absolutely compelling and, it seemed to me, too important not to be told.  Among other things, his story made me reflect how many immigrants to the U.S. must have had such extraordinary experiences and how those personal backgrounds must have played a role in shaping the American experience not only for themselves and their families but the communities around them.

The story begins in 1945 in the area of Mokdan River (Mandarin: Mudanjiang), a city in Northeast China where a Korean diaspora community had formed during the Japanese occupation.  Following the end of the Japanese occupation, Mr. Kim helps to organize a police force of the Korean community.  When the Chinese People’s Army takes over the area, the police force is reorganized as a unit of the Chinese army and Mr. Kim becomes the leader of that battalion.  As persecution of Christians increase in the area, he puts in action an incredible plan to relocate to Korea with several families in the church.  I don’t want to give away the entire story (since I hope one day someone will translate the entire book), but with movement across the Korea-China border restricted, he is able to transport their savings in the form of hundreds of bushels of grain and beans to northern Korea.  There he trades the goods, keeps a promise with Chinese army officials by sending military supplies back to China (with a note that he will follow later), then journeys on to southern Korea with his family and 700 sacks of fertilizer.

Chapters 7 and 35 of the book, which I have translated below, are toward the beginning and end of this first portion of Mr. Kim’s story.

The later part of the book recounts his experiences in South Korea–the Korean War and his escape from almost certain death after interrogation by North Korean command, his printing business and fortuitous experience with dry cleaning.  The final three chapters, roughly half of which is translated below, describe his immigration to the U.S.

Expressions of Mr. Kim’s Christian faith are interspersed throughout the book.  Fellow believers may see how God worked in his life through his faith.  I think others will still see a man whose faith moved him and allowed him to carry on through seemingly impossible situations.  – Hoon Lee

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The Dream: Profiles of Undocumented Korean Americans

I came to the United States when I was 2, sleeping on a plane from Korea in my mother’s arms. In the chilly month of October, 1993, she first set foot on American soil, with me wrapped on her back and carrying two sets of luggage. My father received us at the airport. I just stared at him with curious eyes, as I’d do when meeting anybody new. According to my mother, I couldn’t recognize him as my own father for the first year or so of being reunited with him.

My father came to America six years before my mother and I did. He met my mother during a short visit in Korea, got married and came back alone to continue working. He was searching for better quality of life here for his wife and future child. Choosing to find it in America was a daring decision. He ultimately prepared the way to ensure our family a new beginning in America, although many dreams were shattered along the way.

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Race(ism) 101 – Reflections on the Sa-I-Gu LA Riots

“The ultimate world-historical significance–and oddity–of Los Angeles is that it has come to play the double role of utopia and dystopia for advanced civilization,” Mike Davis, City of Quartz.

April 29, 1992.

I was driving home, listening to 92.3 The Beat, a hip-hop radio station, when the acquittal verdict for the three police officers charged in the Rodney King beating was announced by the DJ. This was a year or two before the takeover of The Beat by DJ Theo Mizuhara, his silky voice becoming synonymous with all things hip-hop. I wonder if he would have been able to calm the rage of his listeners, whether his Japanese-American background would have meant anything for those calling in to voice their outrage and pain. I can remember how the ever-present sun made it necessary for me to put down the sun visor even though I was wearing sunglasses. It’s funny how you remember such tiny details.

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Profile of Lt. Dan Choi

You may already be familiar with the story of how Choi helped to bring about the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), the U.S. policy that banned openly homosexual individuals from serving in the military.

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My Korean American Story: Eugenia Kim

The day after my father attended a PTA meeting at my high school, a teacher stopped me in the hall. “Your father is a remarkable man,” she said. I thought my father, who rarely went to PTA meetings, was an embarrassment.

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My Korean American Story: Kyung Won (Tim) Park

In Genesis of the Bible, there is a story of Abraham being tested by the Lord to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah.  When Abraham was about to kill his son, he is stopped by the Lord

The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson
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Korean American Identity: Past, Present & Future

On December 15th, 2011, KoreanAmericanStory.org, in partnership with Korean American Community Foundation (KACF),  hosted an event, “Korean American Identity: Past, Present & Future” to celebrate our Korean American heritage and identity.  It was an engaging evening of discussion and live participation as we looked back at our immigration history, gauged what it means to be Korean American, and explored the changing faces of the Korean American community today.

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Korean-American Population 1910 – 2010

KoreanAmericanStory.org compiled the data from the Decennial US Census  to determine the number of Korean-American population from 1910 – 2010, broken down by State.

It is a fascinating overview of the history of Korean-American immigration, but to better understand the political and historical reasons behind these immigration patterns

An Appointment with My Brother, by Yi Mun-Yol

The famed South Korean writer imagines meeting his North Korean brother after the death of his father–a defector to the North in the narrator’s youth (a fact that parallels the author’s life).

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3 Generations of Activism Through the Eyes of Yul-san Liem

“Both of my parents were not shy about letting my twin sister and me know about what was going on in the world at an early age. I probably knew more about global issues when I was in 6th grade than I do now. I was talking about war and separated families when I was in 1st grade. My dad still has drawings that we did about them,” said Yul-san Liem. “Because of the work that they were involved in, there were always progressive people coming in and out of the house.”

There a Petal Silently Falls: Three Stories by Ch’oe Yun, translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton

Elegantly crafted and quietly moving, Ch’oe Yun’s stories are among the most incisive portrayals of the psychological and spiritual reality of post-WWII Korea.

The Queens of Ktown by Angela Mi Young Hur

Told from the vantage point of the main character Cora, at age 16 and in her late 20s, the themes of this story are familiar.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin

The story begins, “It’s been one week since Mom went missing.” What follows are narratives of or by each of the family members: two daughters, eldest son (there’s a younger son who isn’t given a voice), husband, and one other voice, beginning with the daughter who is a writer.

Time is Precious, Life is Short

What a year it has been already. Spring is officially here! (Can’t wait for the temperatures to catch up!)

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Why Korean American Churches Need a Makeover

Last year, I gathered with some two hundred other Korean Americans for a church wedding. I was perhaps one of three women who arrived without a date and one of two atheists in the entire crowd. The couple to be wed was, of course, Korean American: the groom, a youth pastor I knew from college; the bride, a bubbly woman he had met at church in California. As I lined up to tender my gift and find my seat in the pews, I already felt the chill of alienation.

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.

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Yuen-Chwan Sheu

When Yuen-chwan Sheu was born in Rizhao, the count of souls tallied no where near its current 2.8 million inhabitants. Yuen-chwan was born the day after the Lunar New Year celebrating the year of the snake on February 9, 1929. At the time Rizhao was organized as a county. He was born into a different universe. His was a universe where his parents fully expected a restoration of the emperor. The new Republican government appeared to be just another anomaly among many in the thousands of years of dynastic rule.

The Korean Connection

In the early 1900’s, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea lost many of its “best and brightest” when it became evident that Japan would take over the country.

Young Man Park was one of the young men who saw no future in their country and immigrated to the United States. Traveling with his uncle and a group of teenagers he went to Denver. As they understood that knowledge of English was a priority, the boys enrolled in the fifth grade of the public schools where they progressed rapidly.

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My Korean American Story: TaeHun Kim

“What possessed you to write a book?” I am most often asked, the reference to “possessed” always accompanied by a smile.

Finding Julie

The concept of racial identity is one that many people struggle with on a daily basis.

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Like Love

“Like Love” — short story published in Sonora Review, 2001.

An Ethnography of the Hermit Kingdom: The J.B. Bernadou Korean Collection 1884-1885, by Chang-su Cho Houchins

John Bernadou (1858-1908) was dispatched by the Smithsonian as a cultural attaché or special envoy to the American mission in Korea, and assembled this collection from March 1884 to April 1885.

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“Bon Chul Koo and the Hall of Fame”

“Bon Chul Koo and the Hall of Fame” is a poem from Jason Koo’s new book of poems, Man on Extremely Small Island.

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‘Korean Enough’

My father’s family in Korea keeps traditions they brought with them from China in the 15th Century that the Chinese no longer keep; they use an archaic Chinese script in the keeping of our family’s records. They perform, inside the confines of my family, these rituals of this lost homeland—even as they tell me they fear I’m “not Korean enough,” with no sense of irony whatsoever.

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My Korean American Story: HJ Lee

My family arrived in New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in July of 1973, and like most immigrant families, with little money, few personal belongings and the hope for a brighter future.

To Swim Across the World, by Ginger Park

A fictionalized biography of the lives of the parents of authors Frances and Ginger Park.

Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang

A memorable collection of essays, letters and narratives by citizens who lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea.

The Comfort Women: Japan’s Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War, by George L. Hicks

An important history book, organized with clarity, without judgment, but with attempts to understand Japanese ethos and motivations that bred this atrocity.

Korea: The Search for Sovereignty, by Geoff Simons

This book gives a broad history of Korea, with a particular focus on key 20th century events. Particular attention is given to the dispute over North Korea’s controversial nuclear development program.

The Korean Way, by W. Ransom Rice Jr.

This slim volume about the history of Korean Christianity and culture provides a surprisingly thorough cultural and historical overview of Korea, including charming signs of the times, such as “modern technologic advances” of the 1970s.

Over the Shoulder: A Novel of Intrigue, by Leonard Chang

A hybrid of crime and literary novel that explores issues of honor and family history, Over The Shoulder offers a unique view of the American protagonist and reluctant investigator, shaken from the doldrums of his insulated life.

Corea: The Hermit Nation by Wm. Elliot Griffis

Originally published in 1882, this early history of Korea in English by Japanese historian William Elliot Griffis became the dominant text on Korea during a critical period of history when Western interests began to converge on the peninsula.

Korean-American Mosaic: Portraits of a Vibrant Community

Korean-American Mosaic: Portraits of a Vibrant Community captures 100 years of Korean-American immigration history.

The Guest, by Hwang Sok-yong, translated by Kyung ja Chun and Maya West

This novel, by a famous Korean author who suffered prison as a result of visiting North Korea, was created with the intent of healing fifty-plus years of deep and bloody wounds between North and South Korea that continue to mar an open dialogue between the two nations and even between family members.

The Aquariums of PyongYang by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot

For ten years in his youth, Kang was a prisoner in Yodok, a North Korean concentration camp geared toward “reeducating” ideological traitors and their families.

Everlasting Empire, by Yi In-Hwa

An historical fiction that examines the last years of King Chongjo (r. 1777-1800), the grandson of King Yongjo, and more notably, the son of Crown Prince Sado, who was killed by his father, King Yongjo, who asked him to step into a rice chest and sealed it, whereupon he died of starvation.

Dictée, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

The groundbreaking and ultimately powerful mixed-media prose-poetry work that explores the depths and transcendence of suffering, history, love and survival.

Soldiers in Hiding, by Richard Wiley

A 2006 reissue of a 1987 winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. In the early 1940s, two Japanese-American youth travel to Tokyo to play music, and then Pearl Harbor prevents their return.

The Living Reed, by Pearl S. Buck

An epic historical fiction that follows Korean modern history (about 1850s through 1945) through the eyes of the male members of four generations of Kims of Andong.

Three Generations by Yom Sang-seop, transl. by Yu Young-nan

An epic tale of a family during the Japanese occupation, the story follows the Jo grandfather, father and son in the waning days of the grandfather’s life, detailing the complex inner workings of those three relationships and the many intertwined relationships that they pursue, in the context of life during the occupation.

Somebody’s Daughter by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Story of an unhappy Korean adoptee from the typical Minnesota Lutheran family. She goes to Korea in search of identity, pursuing a dream of her mother; transposed against the story of her birth mother and how the child came to be adopted.

Treasures from Korea: Art through 5000 Years, by Roderick Whitfield

This British Museum exhibition catalog presents a broad collection of ceramics, gold work, and from the later dynasty, paintings.

A Part of the Ribbon by Ruth S. Hunter

Two martial arts students time travel through Korean history to learn about the origins of their athletic arts. (Young adult)

Aekyung’s Dream by Min Paek

A small story of a girl who wakes up in America wondering what language the birds are singing in.

One Thousand Chestnut Trees by Mira Stout

A “mixed breed” artist in NYC finds her roots during a visit home to Korea.

True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women edited by Keith Howard

This compilation of personal narratives tells the story of the women who survived Japanese sexual slavery during the Pacific War.

Lost Names by Richard E. Kim

Describes the life of a Korean boy (the author)south of Pyongyang during the harshest era of the Japanese occupation, 1930-1945.

Winds of Change: Korean Women in America by Diana Yu

Yu attempts to study the undocumented presence of Korean women from the Ancient Period, 2332 BCE, the social and political history of Korean women during the Japanese Occupation (1910-1945) and the role and culture of Korean and Korean American women today, both in the U.S. and Korea.

Archer’s Quest, by Linda Sue Park

Kevin, a middle schooler or a little younger, is a Korean American boy bored with just about everything, and has an ambivalent relationship with his math-genius father. By magic, the legendary Korean archer, Koh Chu-mong, from ancient Korean history (Koguryo period) appears in his room. (Young Adult)

Encounter by Moo-Sook Hahn

A must-read tour-de-force for anyone with interest in Korean history or literature.

Songs of the Kisaeng : Courtesan Poetry of the Last Korean Dynasty by Constantine Contogenis

Gisaeng, sometimes called “skilled women,” were courtesans in Korean history. During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) kisaeng were prominent in society due to Confucian influence and a resulting large number of upper class bureaucrats, for whom gisaeng were a regular “perk.”

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea, by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Beautiful illustration and a clear story line describe this Korean legendary character, along with some of the complicated cultural mores of the early Yi Dynasty, its injustices, and several traditions and customs, without being intrusive or didactic.

Still Life with Rice Helie Lee

The author goes to Korea in search of her identity, and discovers her grandmother’s compelling story of growing up in a traditional Korean household, expatriating to China to escape the Japanese occupation, and returning only to survive the dramatic hardships of the Korean War.

Korea Between Empires 1895-1919 by Andre Schmid

A unique perspective on a rarely visited period of Korean modern history.

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