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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Concern over plans for Korea center

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

A community leader is raising concerns about aspects of a planned Korean cultural center in Pu'unui near Nu'uanu that will house museum exhibits as well as a small number of visiting students.

Input sought

• Citizens have until Dec. 9 to submit comments on an environmental assessment for the planned Korean cultural center at 2756 Rooke Ave.

• View copies of the assessment at the Office of Environmental Quality Control, 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702. Call 586-4185.

• Send comments to Planning Consultants Inc., 928 Nu'uanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96817.

The center would occupy a 1927 stucco residence at 2756 Rooke Ave. known on the state and federal historic registers as Canavarro Castle.

Teresa Russell, who chairs the Liliha/'Alewa/Pu'unui/Kamehameha Heights Neighborhood Board, said she was startled to read in The Advertiser that the project sponsors plan to house students at the Rooke Avenue site, saying that wasn't mentioned in two presentations before board members.

"That never came up," Russell said. "I think that if they had, (current residents) would have been more concerned about the noise and vehicles up and down that narrow lane. That was the first concern: How many people are going to be there?"

The project, which requires a city conditional use permit, is being proposed by a nonprofit group called the Korean Cultural Center of Hawaii. Kea Sung Chung, who chairs the group's governing council, said two to six students, to be here on one- to two-month fellowships, would live at the property at any given time.

The group is planning only about five or six gatherings a year, each bringing no more than 80 to 100 people to the center, Chung said.

The first would be a Jan. 14 celebration marking the centennial of Korean immigration and celebrating the opening of the center, which Chung said is being established as a remembrance of the Korean independence movement.

A granite monument to Korean national heroes, about 25 feet tall, is being prepared for installation at the site, Chung said.

Woo Jun Hong, founder of a school near Seoul called the Kyung Min Foundation, financed the cultural center's purchase of the home two years ago, Chung said. It had been owned since 1947 by a Korean community association but originally was built for the son of the first Portuguese consul-general to Hawai'i, according to an environmental assessment document. The change of ownership has been beneficial to the property, which had deteriorated over the years, and should not disrupt the neighborhood, Chung said.

"We want to comply with the law as much as possible," he added. "A lot of crimes were there. ... We started paving the road and cleaning up the house and painting it.

"We are happy to see it's cleaned up and nice and secure."

City planner Lin Wong said the permit application is due after the final comments are submitted, adding that a public hearing would be scheduled.