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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Korean War museum losing housing options

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

Time is running out on finding a permanent home for the National Korean War Museum — here, there and everywhere.

Kyle Kopitke, the force behind the museum in Wahiawa, stands by statues of former South Korean President Syngman Rhee and current President Roh Moo-hyun. The museum may have to find a new home.

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Within the next 30 to 60 days, the museum, which opened in February, will likely have to move out of its leased two-story, 200-foot-long Quonset building at 235 Kellogg St. in Wahiawa when a court-ordered foreclosure sale of the property is confirmed.

The Aug. 2 foreclosure was taken against Maria Abello and her company Teancum Inc. for a defaulted loan.

Kyle Kopitke, the prime mover of the museum project, confirmed yesterday there were serious discussions for leases at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Mich., and the Arkansas Aeroplex, formerly Blytheville Air Force Base.

The Oscoda Press reported that the National Korean War Museum group in Hawai'i had notified Tom Salter, Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport manager, on Friday that it was backing out of a project to house a second museum in a 28,000-square-foot building.

Kopitke said that the two groups had weekend talks to try to resolve differences about the lease agreement, and that the issue is not closed. Salter was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The Blytheville location appears to be a long shot at best, Kopitke said. The Blytheville Courier News reported that negotiations began in February, stalled and then started up again a few months ago. The sides are not currently negotiating, Kopitke said.

Kopitke had been looking for buildings of 30,000 square feet at former military bases on the Mainland as potential sites for a "sister" museum that could include displays of tanks, B-52 bombers and vehicles used in the Korean War. The Oscoda and Blytheville sites were zoned for museums and would have included Vietnam War displays.

Kopitke, 47, who calls himself the coordinator of the Korean War museum project, has been supporting himself and his family since February on his own money. He was working in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' history department when he began pursuing the project nearly 10 years ago.

"We've been buried so many times, and people said we would never open, but we did," he said. "Our goal was to add 50 items every week (to the museum), and we continue to do that. We're still praying that someone will come through the door and offer assistance, or for the new owner (of the Kellogg Street building) to lease it to us."

Although he has been able to pitch the project successfully, Kopitke said more is needed.

"One of the weaknesses of our board of trustees is that we have not been able to retain an effective fund-raiser and/or grant writer," Kopitke said. "I've made my share of mistakes, but the main thing is we're still open."

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.