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Korean-American Studies Center Launched


Center for Korean-American Studies at UC Riverside Launched

Supporters from South Korea to Southern California celebrate the grand opening of the research center named for war hero and community activist Young Oak Kim.

(September 29, 2010)

Edward Chang, Center Director<br />
Photo by Michael EldermanEnlarge

Edward Chang, Center Director
Photo by Michael Elderman

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at UC Riverside will lead the United States in studying issues related to the Korean diaspora and Korean-American identity issues, dignitaries and supporters said as the center celebrated its grand opening on Sept. 29.

Approximately 100 dignitaries from South Korea, China and Southern California, including Consul General Jae Soo Kim, as well as donors, members of the Korean-American business community and UCR faculty observed the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and toured the center, named for Col. Young Oak Kim, a highly decorated U.S. Army veteran of World War II and the Korean War. The center is located on the fourth floor of the Interdisciplinary Building.

Among other South Korean government officials attending the ceremony were Consul Si-Heung Lim, and Director Chulhwan Byun and Third Secretary Mi Eun Kim from the Overseas Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Also recognized were members of the Overseas Koreans Foundation (OKF), which awarded UC Riverside a 3 billion won (approximately $2.7 million U.S.) grant to launch the center; Jay Kim, president of Costar International Enterprises Inc. and Costar Group Inc., who helped secure the OKF grant and has publicly stated his intention to provide $250,000 to the center; and Dr. Sammy Lee, the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. Dr. Lee won gold medals for platform diving in 1948 and 1952, a bronze for springboard diving.

“Starting today, media, government, the public and the academic community will have a scholarly source of information and research about what has become one of the largest immigrant communities in this country,” UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White told the gathering. “UC Riverside, which is known across the country for the diversity of its student body and its welcoming environment, will be able to take the lead in a less well-explored area of Asian-American studies. And most appropriately, this center will bear the name of an activist, a hero, decorated in four countries and an advocate for the entire Asian-American community, Young Oak Kim.”

Edward Chang, center director and professor of ethnic studies, said the Young Oak Kim Center is the fulfillment of a longtime dream to establish a research center dedicated to the study of the Korean-American community. The center will be one of only a few in the United States to focus its research on questions such as what it means to be a Korean American in the 21st century, the history of Korean Americans, the Korean diaspora in the United States and globally, and the role of Korean Americans in the reunification of South and North Korea. “Dreams do come true,” Chang said.

Myung “Mike” Hong, founder and owner of Dura Coat Products Inc. in Riverside who helped secure the OKF grant, said the center will play an important role in helping young Korean Americans connect with their roots, understand the struggles “of those who came here to live the American dream and to help them find their identity as Korean Americans.”

Consul General Kim said he hopes that research produced by the center also will help young Korean Americans identify other cultural heroes who follow the example set by Col. Kim, who is revered not only for his leadership and bravery in battle, but also as a community activist.

When Col. Kim retired after 30 years in the Army he became an advocate for Asian Americans, helping to found the Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles that honors the U.S. military service of Japanese Americans during WWII, as well as the Japanese American National Museum, the Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center and the Korean American Museum.
Consul General Jae Soo Kim checks a computer in the new Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies.<br />
Photos by Michael EldermanEnlarge

Consul General Jae Soo Kim checks a computer in the new Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies.
Photos by Michael Elderman

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee chats with UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White before the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.Enlarge

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee chats with UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White before the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

Participating in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting are (from left): Ralph Ahn; Consul General Jae Soo Kim; Stephen Cullenberg, dean of the UCR College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Olympic gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee; Chancellor Timothy P. White; Myung Enlarge

Participating in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting are (from left): Ralph Ahn; Consul General Jae Soo Kim; Stephen Cullenberg, dean of the UCR College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Olympic gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee; Chancellor Timothy P. White; Myung "Mike" Hong; Peter Hayashida, UCR vice chancellor for advancement; and Ed Chang, center director and professor of ethnic studies.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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