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Korean American Studies Center Publishes First Book

Korean American Studies Center Publishes First Book

English translation of the book about Col. Young Oak Kim honors the legacy of the war hero and humanitarian.

(April 27, 2011)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Young Oak Kim Center at UC Riverside has published its first book, “Unsung Hero: The Story of Colonel Young Oak Kim.”

The book is an English translation of the Korean title “The Beautiful Hero Young Oak Kim,” which was written by award-winning journalist Woo Sung Han. Edward T. Chang, professor of ethnic studies and director of the UCR center, translated the book.

Col. Kim is revered in Korea and by Korean Americans. A highly decorated U.S. Army veteran of World War II and the Korean War, he was the only Korean-American officer in a mostly Japanese-American unit in the Army. He earned numerous decorations from the United States, Italy, France and Korea, and became a role model in the Los Angeles community after his retirement from the military. He helped 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.

“Unsung Hero: The Story of Colonel Young Oak Kim” is the first major project completed by the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies since it opened in September 2010. Author Han interviewed Kim numerous times, visited many historical sites, consulted thousands of military documents, and interviewed numerous people to corroborate Kim’s story, Chang said.

“I strongly believe that the story of Col. Kim should be taught and passed on to the next generation as he serves as a role model for young people,” Chang said. “Col. Kim is not only a legendary war hero but, more importantly, a great humanitarian activist who tirelessly worked for underprivileged populations such as women, orphans, and minorities.”

In an acknowledgement in “Unsung Hero” Chang wrote, “… I strongly believe that this story will not only inspire young, old, men, women, students of all races and ethnicity, but also push them to take action for racial equality and social justice. … Hopefully, the story of Young Oak Kim will inspire millions of people to work toward racial equality, social justice, and peace.”

Chang said he hopes the book will be adopted as a textbook by colleges, universities and high schools across the country. All fifth-graders in Korea learn about the legacy of Young Oak Kim as his story is included in textbooks there.

The formal announcement of the book’s publication on April 28 at the Young Oak Kim Academy, a Los Angeles junior high school, comes on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of four white police officers charged with beating black motorist Rodney King. Stores owned by Korean and other Asian immigrants suffered significant damage and loss.

“It was a turning point for Korean Americans in the rebirth of Korean-American identity,” Chang said.

“Unsung Hero” is available through the YOK Center at UC Riverside, and online at, and other online bookstores.

The Young Oak Kim Center is 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.

The University of California, Riverside ( 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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