Korean American Day, celebrated annually on January 13, commemorates the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States. The day also honors Korean Americans’ incredible contributions to society. The commemorative day was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate and House in 2005.
In 1882, the United States and Korea signed a treaty establishing a relationship of peace, friendship and commerce. While this led to Korean diplomats, students, politicians and businessmen visiting the United States, few felt compelled to stay.
It wasn’t until December of 1902, on the SS Gaelic, that 102 Korean immigrants set sail for Honolulu, Hawaii. The group arrived on January 13, 1903, initiating the first wave of Korean immigration. More than 7,500 Korean immigrants followed these pioneers’ paths over the next two years.
During both World Wars and the Korean War, many more Koreans made the decision to emigrate from their homeland; some, as wives to U.S. servicemen and, others as children adopted by US families. As ofPer the 2010 Census, there were more than 1.7 million people of Korean descent residing in the United States.
If you’ve spoken with an American teenager or tween recently, you know that K-pop is wildly popular amongst America’s youth,. bBut Korean Americans’ contributions to the United States extend far beyond boy bands., Their contributions includeing the invention of the first beating heart operation for coronary artery heart disease, development of the nectarine, a 4-time Olympic gold medalist, and achievements in engineering, architecture, medicine, acting, singing, sculpture, and writing.
Every year, the Korea Economic Institute (KEI) celebrates this day by sponsoring a luncheon in Washington, DC. This event has come to be is recognized as one of the preeminent celebrations for Korean -American Day with more than 250 participants. As part of the ceremony, KEI recognizes three prominent Korean Americans that have made significant contributions in their field during the previous year.
Outside of formal celebrations, many prominent Korean Americans make an effort to expand awareness of this important, commemorative day each year, – particularly amongst younger generations. Chef and owner of Seorabol restaurant in Philadelphia, Chris Cho, promotes Korean culture through his love of food on his Instagram @chefchrischo. Yet others are reaching out through music, such as with the remix of “Arirang” by New York City songwriter Janet Noh with Joe Kye, which they was put together for the Korean-AmericanKorean American Coalition of Chicago (KAC-Chicago) in 2017.
Here are a few more famous Korean – Americans that have left lasting impressions on the United States:
- Ahn Chang Ho, – also known as Dosan -, is credited with establishing established the Willows Korean Aviation Corps in the United States, which later helped establish the Korean Airforce.
- Sammy Lee – Olympic two-time gold medalist in diving (1948 – London, 1952 – Helsinki).
- Wendy Gramm – Served as U.S Commodity Futures Trading Commission chair under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
- Judge Herbert Y.C. Choy – First Asian American appointed to U.S. Federal Court (Court of Appeals Ninth District) in 1974.
- David Hyun – Architect charged credited with revitalizing Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.
- Sang Hyun Lee – First tenured Asian American professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.
- Hines Ward, Jr. – Professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.