The Centennial Committee of Korean Immigration to the United States – Greater Washington was established in October 2001 as a Virginia non-profit organization to provide programs relating to the history and future of Korean immigration to the United States, and to engage in other educational and cultural activities.
The organization was recognized as tax-exempt under IRC Section 501(c) (3) in June 2003. The organizational name was changed to the Korean American Foundation – Greater Washington (KAF-GW) on January 2004. KAF-GW at the time was vigorously seeking the designation of Korean American Day as January 13, the date that the first Korean immigrants arrived on the shores of America in Hawaii in 1903.
This goal was realized in 2005, when the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed resolutions designating January 13 as Korean American Day. Since then, the foundation has been actively supporting and organizing special events on January 13, Korean American Day.
On October 20, 2005, the Senate of the United States passed Senate Resolution 283 of the 109th Congress. It states that the Senate –
(1) supports the goals and ideals of a ‘Korean American Day’;
(2) commemorates the 103rd anniversary of the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States; and
(3) encourages the people of the United States to –
(A) share in such commemoration in order to greater appreciate the valuable contributions Korean Americans have made to the United States; and
(B) to observe ‘Korean American Day’ with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
On December 13, 2005, the House of Representatives of the United States passed House Resolution 487 of the 109th Congress. It states that the House of Representatives –
(1) supports the goals and ideals of a Korean American Day;
(2) urges all Americans to observe Korean American Day so as to have a greater appreciation of the invaluable contributions Korean Americans have made to the United States; and
(3) honors and recognizes the 103rd anniversary of the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States.
- We strive to honor and increase awareness of the accomplishments and contributions of the Korean American community since January 13, 1903, when Korean immigrants first arrived in the United States.
- We aspire to cultivate an appreciation among present and future generations of Korean Americans for the efforts of our pioneering predecessors in establishing our roots within the American homeland and its culture.
- We endeavor to build and strengthen relationships between the Korean American community and the diverse communities of the United States while maintaining strong bonds with the people and the rich and ancient traditions of Korea.
- A major part of our effort to realize these goals shall include organizing a public event on Korean American Day, January 13, in Washington, D.C., that invites distinguished Korean Americans and friends of the community to gather together in celebration of this day.
Rosa Park 10th President
Soo Kyung Jung Vice President
Young Chul Joo Vice President
Ji Hee Park Secretary
Myung Hee Lee Treasurer
Message from the president:
I, Rosa Park, am privileged to serve as the 10th President of the Korean American Foundation – Greater Washington !!
My journey of 37 years as a first generation immigrant has been an experience full of challenges and opportunities. I have learned to keep two thoughts close in my heart:
First, I always appreciate and have great respect for our predecessors. Their lives were in many cases very difficult. Their sacrifices and hard work have created for us a unique history of Korean American immigration for which we may be proud. They have also helped to provide the foundation for us to build successful lives in American society. I believe it is our duty to those early immigrants and to our current and future generations to pass on the cherished values and traditions of our immigrant forebears.
Second, I believe that all of us are private diplomats who represent the Korean American community within the greater American society. We must set a good example so that all Americans will look upon us as upstanding, hard working citizens. Doing this will also affect how Americans view the Republic of Korea and will ultimately help to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the Republic of Korea and the United States.
Year 2023 will mark the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States. I am so excited that our steering committee has prepared for 2023 Korean American Day to celebrate with all generations and all communities together.
As President of the Korean American Foundation – Greater Washington, it is my responsibility to insure that our organization works to preserve the memory of our immigration history and promotes that history as worthy of study and of respect. I am determined to succeed in that effort.
Thank you very much.
November 28, 2022
Sekwon Chong 1st / 2nd / 3rd President
Eun Ae Lee 4th / 5th President
I was born in Busan, South Korea and immigrated to the United States in 1982. I have been working with all my passion to help Korean American society for over 30 years.
Ben Hur 6th President
I grew up in Cheonan, South Korea and received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Diplomacy from Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea. I served as a 154th Korean Navy Recruiter and worked for the Overseas Development Corporation in Korea. In 1981, I came to the United States for a graduate program at Coppin State University in Baltimore.
Mi Schill Kim 7th / 8th President
Ms. Kim was born and raised in Taegu South Korea. She moved to the United States in 1982, after arriving in New York City she graduated CUNY College in 1988 computer system analyst and attended St. John University studying Business then moved to Maryland in 2000.
Myung Hee Lee 9th President
Myung Hee Lee was born in Daegu, South Korea and grew up and completed my primary and secondary education in Pusan, South Korea. I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Seoul at Duksung University. I then completed 2 years in the graduate business school at Dongkook University in Seoul. I worked for 2 years as an Art teacher in a remote part of Korea.
Summary of Korean American Immigration History
Korean Immigration 1903 – Present
First Wave: 1903 – 1949
The first significant wave of immigration started in 1903, when Koreans arrived in Hawaii to work on pineapple and sugar plantations. By 1905, more than 7,000 Koreans had come to Hawaii to escape the famines and turbulent political climate of Korea. Eventually, about half of these Korean workers moved to the mainland and established businesses such as laundry and nail salons, with the remainder returning to Korea. From 1905 to 1924, approximately 2,000 additional Korean immigrants moved to Hawaii and California as picture brides. The mass immigration abruptly ended in 1924 when Congress passed the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924.
Second Wave: 1950 – 1964
After Korea was liberated from Japanese occupation in 1945, Korea was divided in 1948 into the South and the communist North. During the Korean War (1950-1953), about 15,000 Koreans moved to America. The McCarran and Walter Act of 1952 nullified the 1924 Asian immigration ban and made Asians eligible for citizenship. After the war, Korean wives of American soldiers, war orphans adopted by American families, and others migrated to the U.S. Most of the war brides were initially required to live on military bases. The war orphans were mainly of mixed race having American servicemen as fathers. The others, mainly students, professionals, and academics, successfully integrated into American society.
Third Wave: 1965 – present
The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act revoked the national quota system. The annual number of Korean immigrants steadily increased beginning in 1965. Conditions in Korea caused massive numbers of Koreans to immigrate in the 1960s through the early 1980s. Their children, known as the second generation, comprise the major component of the current Korean-American community. Unlike previous immigrants, this wave was mainly white-collar workers in Korea who voluntarily moved to America.
Reference: History of the Korean-Americans in the Washington Metoropolitan Area (Searchable pdf)
Fig. 1. The S.S.Gaelic brought the first 102 Korean immigrants to Hawaii on January 13,1903.
Fig. 2. Korean immigrants working in a Hawaiian sugar plantation.
Emperor Gojong (reigned 1863-1907)
King Gojong of Korea dispatched Bobingsa , the first official Korean delegation to the United States in July 1883.
The official Korean delegation consisted of 10 members, led by the Chief Minister, Min Young-Ik, Vice Minister Hong Young-Sik, and Percival L. Lowell, who acted as the foreign secretary and counsellor. By virtue of his international experience by studying at Keio University in Japan in 1881, Min Young-Ik recommended Kil-Chun be included among the 10 delegates sent to the United States. The Korean delegation arrived in New York on September 17, 1883, having travelled across the country from San Francisco. The next day they met the American President Chester A. Arthur at 11 o’clock in the morning. Stopping in New York only to meet the President, the group travelled on to Boston. They spent a week in the city, visiting schools, companies, and industrial exhibitions, before leaving for Washington,