Legislators Recognize Korean American Day

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Both California’s Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have issued statements recognizing Jan. 13 as Korean American Day.

In Sacramento, Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) said, “This day recognizes the rich history and culture of the Korean American community. On Jan. 13, 1903, the history of Korean immigration to America began when 102 courageous Korean men, women, and children crossed the Pacific Ocean aboard the S.S. Gaelic to land in Hawaii. Serving as farmers in the sugar fields, these immigrants faced many hardships due to social and economic barriers.  Nevertheless, they did not falter in their pursuit of the American dream.

“Since the enactment of the Federal Immigration Act of 1965, Koreans have become one of the fastest-growing Asian groups in the United States. In 1965, it was estimated that there were fewer than 25,000 Korean Americans living in the United States. By 1970, the figure had doubled to 50,000. In 1980, the number had increased over six-fold to 357,393. The American Community Survey estimates that in 2011 there were over 1.7 million Korean Americans living the United States.

“Some notable Korean Americans include Alfred Song, the first Asian American to serve in the California State Assembly; Margaret Cho, one of the first Asian Americans to star in a national televised sitcom; Herbert Choy, the first Asian American to serve as a United States federal Judge; and Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank.

“I am only naming just a few of the many Korean Americans who have broken barriers and helped build up California and the United States. I encourage everyone to spend some time today to learn something about and from this vibrant community.”

The API Legislative Caucus was established in 2001 with the mission of representing and advocating for the interests of the diverse Asian and Pacific Islander communities throughout California.  Additionally, the caucus seeks to increase Asian Pacific Islander participation and representation in all levels of government. Fong and Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) have served as chair and vice-chair, respectively, since the start of the current legislative session.

In Washington, D.C., Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair, said, “This Sunday, as we recognize Korean American Day, we will be marking the 110th anniversary of the first Korean immigrants’ arrival to the United States. Since then, Korean Americans have contributed significantly to every facet of our society — they are our neighbors, our colleagues, our servicemen and women, and leaders in business, faith, and civic life. The success of the Korean American community reflects the hard work, opportunity, and multiculturalism that have long defined the driving spirit of our nation.”

Following are statements from other CAPAC members.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “On Jan. 13, 1903, more than 100 Korean men, women and children arrived in Honolulu aboard the S.S. Gaelic, marking the first wave of Korean immigration to the United States and its territories. Today, we celebrate Korean American Day on Jan. 13 to recognize the tremendous contributions Korean Americans have made to our country – from business to entertainment, medicine to elected office – since those first families took the risk in search of greater opportunities.

“Hawaii, and our country as a whole, is a better place because of the contributions our Korean American brothers and sisters have made.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “As we commemorate Korean American Day, I am proud to celebrate and acknowledge the indelible contributions and accomplishments of the Korean American community to the fabric and story of America. One hundred and ten years ago, on Jan. 13, 102 men, women and children traveled from the Korean Peninsula, aboard the S.S. Gaelic, and landed in Hawaii – marking the first entry of Korean immigrants on U.S. shores.

“Since their arrival, the Korean American community has enriched our nation’s society, culture, economy and arts – becoming the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. and male diver to win back-to-back diving gold medals; to serving with distinction in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I, II and the Korean Conflict, as well in high level posts in our current administration and judicial seats; while making invaluable strides in entrepreneurship and medicine; and bridging the ties between U.S. and South Korea.

“I feel a particular sense of family and affection to Korean Americans, and to Korea, where I recently traveled in the past week. And I am especially honored to represent California’s 17th District, where I know Korean Americans have played a critical role in our community and diversity. Today, alongside the nearly two million Korean Americans across our nation, I am honored to celebrate their continued journey.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “I am proud to join with the Korean American community in celebrating Korean American Day. 110 years ago, the first Korean immigrants to the United States arrived in Hawaii seeking the American dream. Today, Korean Americans represent a vibrant community that has enriched our country’s values, traditions, culture and history. I am honored to represent a strong and vibrant Korean American community in New York, and I salute all of the tremendous contributions that Korean Americans have made to our nation.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Cerritos): “Korean Americans have played an integral role in enriching our cultural fabric by the contributions they have made to our country. Their values and entrepreneurial spirit have helped grow our country and strengthened our communities. I am proud to represent a large and vibrant Korean American population in my district. I encourage all Americans to join me in recognizing the accomplishments and history of Korean Americans.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank): “This Sunday is Korean American Day. It is the diversity of our nation that makes us great, fascinating, vibrant and always rejuvenating, and I am pleased to join my constituents and many throughout the nation as we celebrate the culture and recognize the contributions of the Korean American community.”

CAPAC is composed of members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.

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