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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Koreans to mark century in Hawai'i

 •  Centennial events begin next month

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Chief Justice Ronald Moon of the Hawai'i Supreme Court is one of the notables who can trace their ancestry to the first Korean immigrants arriving here nearly a century ago.

Moon's grandfathers were among the first immigrants.

Moon Chung Hurn was from what is now North Korea and married a picture bride, while Lee Man Kee left his wife and eldest daughter in Seoul to come here, the chief justice said. "My mother told me that grandfather Moon came in 1903 and her father (Lee) sometime between 1903 and 1905," Moon said.

Duke Moon, the judge's father, was the eldest of four children. His wife, Mary, the judge's mother, was the second of Lee's three daughters. Both grandfathers of the chief justice worked their way out of the sugar fields and went into business in Wahiawa.

"Moon became a tailor and Lee had a barbershop and pool hall," the chief justice said. Duke Moon eventually took over his father's business and expanded it to a general store on California Avenue called "Duke's."

"They brought with them a work ethic and both were strong Christians," Chief Justice Moon said of his grandfathers. "It was passed down to my parents."

January 2003 will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Korean immigration, which started with the arrival on Jan. 13, 1903, of 86 immigrants from Korea. Today, Koreans represent the sixth largest ethnic group in Hawai'i, with 23,537 residents, according to the 2000 Census.

Other notable local Koreans with roots in the 1903-05 immigration are Donald C.W. Kim, general chairman of the national centennial committee; Patricia (Lee) Hamamoto, Hawai'i's superintendent of education; Herbert Y.C. Choy, senior judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Jung Jin Yang, wife of South Korea's ambassador to the United States, who was known as Daisy Lee when she graduated from McKinley High in 1962.

On a per capita basis, Koreans have fared well in the business world here and on the Mainland, according to Moon, who said education has always been a high priority for Koreans.

Events related to the Korean centennial celebration in Hawai'i will begin next month and run through 2003.

"Our goals are to honor the first immigrants and gain more appreciation in the community for Korean contributions in Hawai'i and the U.S.," said Janis Koh of the centennial celebration committee.

Koh pointed out that Koreans have fared well as professionals on the Mainland. Retired Army Col. Young Oak Kim of California was one of the most decorated soldiers in World War II and the Korean War. James Kim of Philadelphia is the founder of a billion-dollar business, Ankor Tech.

Centennial celebrations will be held in 14 other American cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington.