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<b>[Feature]Korean Immigrants In America① </b>

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작성자 minjok 작성일02-01-18 00:00 조회1,448회 댓글0건

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COVER STORY


By Dr. Harold Hakwon Sunoo

sunwoohakwon.jpg Judging from some of their early experiences, the Korean immigrants in America at the turn of 20th century were mixture of early adventures, hardships, and discriminations. Yet, their dreams, endurance, and tolerance never disappeared from them. They determined to succeed, if not for themselves, at least for their offspring.

Most of the recent immigrants have no idea of what the early pioneers experienced. Those we have interviewed were neither starving nor living in a slum, but they were not in the middle class "desirable" neighbors either.

No known major crimes have been committed by Korean immigrants or their children. The ingenuity and the adaptability to sudden crisis are strengths they displayed. Granted they had little other choice, throughout the interviews the message came loud and clear that they were going to lay the foundation to create that better world they did not find; they were determined that their children would find themselves in a better world. Perhaps it was this ray of hope that sustained them through all their years of struggle and humiliations. The strengths and lessons we can draw through the experiences of the Korean pioneers in America are indeed inspirational.

BIOGRAPHY About Dr.Harold Sunoo


Harold Hakwon Sunoo, Ph.D., a native Korean, is C.M.C. Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Central Methodist College in Missouri. He received his education in Korea, Japan, the United States, and Europe. He taught at the Universities of California (Berkeley), Washington (Seattle), Yousei (Seoul), New York, and Central Methodist College. He has published twenty books in English, French, Japanese, and Korean. He is married to Sonia, an ethnic researcher, has two sons and three grandchildren in California.


PREFACE


The first group of Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu during the period January 13,1903 through 1905, travelling by 65 different ships. The next group of Korean immigrants came between 1910-1924, the period covering Japan"s annexation of Korea and the signing of the Oriental Exclusion Act.

Historically, Korean immigration to America was first initiated from the outside and was not totally due to existing domestic and internal conditions of Korea as is generally assumed. The Hawaii Sugar Plantation Association was in dire need of laborers as a result of legislation established in 1882 which excluded Chinese laborers to Hawaii.

The Korean immigration to Hawaii was conceived as a means of filling the labor shortage for the benefit of the Hawaii Sugar Planters.

Materials used in this study are based primarily on taped oral interviews of the experiences of the early Korean immigrants who left Korea between 1903 and 1924. According to our taped findings, the immigrants gave several reasons for leaving Korea. The most dominating reason given for leaving Korea was to escape the increasing abusive pressures of Japanese domination there. Those immigrants felt that any place would be better than being forced to endure the Japanese oppression.

The second reason which motivated the immigrants to leave their loved ones and homeland for Hawaii was the desire for personal liberation. We might even call it an adventurous attitude. The women, more than the men, wanted to get away from the throes of a decaying feudalistic social system which had no regard for women"s rights. The system"s treatment of women was inhumane and brutal. Those courageous and determined women tore themselves away from the debilitating system and dared to defy the traditions of the day by escaping to America.

There was a third common reason for coming to America. They dreamt of America as a place to find a better life. Did they find a better life? How did they find it, if they did? What price did they pay?

The personal experiences of the early Korean immigrants are our main concern here. 80 of these brave pioneers have been interviewed and taped, transcribed and translated. As far as we know, this project is the first oral history of the early Korean immigrants in America and believe that these are precious documents to be studied. This manuscript is primarily based on these taped interviews.

The Korean community in America was invisible until the 1970"s due to its small numbers: furthermore, they made no collective economic successes like the Chinese communities or the social and cultural successes like the Japanese communities in America.

Early Korean immigrants contributed their all toward financial support for the Korean patriots living in exile in China and for those involved with the Korean provisional government in Shanghai. Koreans in America supported the government-in-exile tirelessly until 1945.

They also supported those engaged in the war against the Japanese invasion of China, and continued again until 1945. The political activities of the early Korean immigrants in connection with the liberation of Korea from Japan served many purposes for those alienated in this white-dominated society. Their sufferings and pains in a struggle and unfriendly surroundings were made more tolerable, their human dignity was sustained and a national pride preserved because of their superordinate goal, in the struggle for independence from Japanese rule. Considering the time they lived and their environment of their time, their motivation and participation were, indeed, admirable and honorable. Presenting such story, we recognize once again significance of the pluralistic nature as well as the dynamic character of democratic society.


Life of Early Korean Immigrants in America

I. Introduction
Part One: Motivations for Immigration
2. The Political Motivation
3. The Social Motivation
4. The Economic Motivation
Part Two: Process of Settlement
5. The Marriage by Matchmakers
6. The Marriage by Pictures--Picture Brides
7. Education for Early Immigrants
Part Three: Building Institutions
8. The Family Life
9. Political Groups
10. The Role of the Church

II. Concluding Remarks

......................................................................

Chapter One: INTRODUCTION


Koreans have immigrated to the Hawaiian Islands as immigrant laborers for the sugar plantations since 1903, and many eventually left the plantations and sailed to mainland United States. The number of early Korean immigrants was very small when compared with the Chinese and the Japanese. The first group of Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu during the period January 13, 1903, through 1905, traveling by 65 different ships. There were only 7,226 Korean immigrants of whom 637 were women. In due time, 12 of the women and only one short of 2,000 men left Hawaii for the mainland of the United States. The remaining number either returned to Korea disappointed or endured their life in Hawaii.

The next group of Korean immigrants came between 1910-1924, the period covering Japan"s annexation of Korea and the signing of the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924. Following Japan"s annexation of Korea, anti-Japanese activities increased among Korean immigrants both in Hawaii and the mainland of the U.S. This growing anti-Japanese sentiment was of grave concern to the Japanese, who felt that granting exit permits to young Korean women willing to go abroad under marriage contract might counter political passions among overseas Koreans. As a result, between 1910 and 1924 over a thousand marriages took place. Many of the young women came under the "picture bride" system, used also by the Chinese and the Japanese women.

Historically, Korean immigration to America was first initiated from the outside and was not totally due to existing domestic and internal conditions of Korea as is generally assumed. The Hawaii Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) was in dire need of laborers as a result of legislation established in 1882 which excluded Chinese laborers to Hawaii.

An HSPA representative met with Horace N. Allen in San Francisco to discuss the matter of bringing Korean laborers to Hawaii. Allen then Chief of the United States Legation in Seoul, had had additional meetings with officials of HSPA in Honolulu.

On his return to Seoul, Allen discussed the matter with David W. Deshler, President of the East-West Development Company, who as a broker took great interest in the venture. Allen had congenial relationships with the Korean King, Kojong, so it was not difficult for him to encourage the Korean government to cooperate with the idea of sending laborers to Hawaii in spite of the national law of Korea which prohibited such action. Allen reminded Governor Sanford B. Dole of Hawaii, that "...the severe famine of the pasts winter made the matter (of contracting Korean laborers) seem all the more attractive to the Koreans..."

The Korean immigration to Hawaii was conceived as a means of filling the labor shortage for the benefit of the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association. After a few years, many Korean laborers left Hawaii to fill other labor needs including railroad building on the mainland. Thus, unwittingly, the Korean laborers were first victims of the HSPA, struggling long hours under sub-standard working conditions and meager wages, and later as they labored on the mainland.

Another significant factor which involved Korean immigration to Hawaii had to do with the role of American missionaries in Korea. Deshler"s business motivation and Allen"s motivation did not recruit enough Korean volunteer laborers to Hawaii. It took Reverend George Heber Jones" persuasive sermon to entice his congregation members to fill the first ship which left Inchon port on December 22, 1902, arriving in Honolulu on January 13, 1903. Nearly half the 101 immigrants on the first ship were members from Reverend Jones" Yongdong Church in Inchon. What Rev. Jones preached that Sunday morning or Reverend Jones swayed half his congregation to leave Korea for Hawaii sugar plantations as laborers remain an enigma.

The fact remains that the believers trusted the missionary"s judgment and were persuaded to immigrate. As a result, the Christian population dominated the entire immigration number during the period 1903-1905. The increasing numbers of Christian churches around the sugar plantations in Hawaii during those days testify to this.

The third environmental circumstance which influenced the Korean immigration to Hawaii was the economic condition of that period in Korea. There were famines in Korea at the turn of the century and many wee starving, particularly the peasants. King Kojong suspended rice exports and imported 300,000 bushels of rice from Indochina. For the first time the Korean government established a relief office on behalf of the starving people, but it was impossible for the faltering feudalistic government to maintain an effective system for handling the emergency.

Materials used in this study are based primarily on taped oral interviews of the experiences of the early Korean immigrants who left Korea between 1903 to 1924. According to our taped findings, the immigrants gave several other reasons for leaving Korea besides the three external circumstances described earlier.

The first and most dominating reason given for leaving Korea was to escape the increasing abusive pressures of Japanese domination there. Those immigrants felt that any place would be better than being forced to endure the Japanese oppression. This motivation is in direct contrast to the seemingly less politically oriented group of 983 who returned to the Japanese-dominated Korea rather than continue their slave-like existence on the sugar plantations in Hawaii.

Ironically, these immigrants were not aware of the historical development between Japan and the United States at that time: the secret Taft-Katsura Agreement of 1905 in which the United States agreed to support Japan"s gradual occupation of Korea. In fact, the United States government stopped honoring Korean passports, and the American embassy in Seoul refused to issue visas. The Korean government, however, issued passports to Koreans continuously even after the protectorate treaty of 1905. The secret U.S.-Japan agreement took place despite the 1882 treaty between Korea and the United States, which according to Article 6, paragraph I, reads:
The subject of Korean who may visit the United States shall be permitted to reside and to rent premises, purchase land or to contract residence or warehouses in all parts of the country. They shall be freely permitted to pursue their various callings and avocations, and to traffic in all merchandise, raw, and manufactured, that is not declared contraband by law.

Why then had thousands of Koreans immigrated to Hawaii as laborers to toil and bear the humiliation of the landlord"s horse whips and suffer such great indignities? It is evident that tragic that neither the Korean government nor the American government watched over the exploitative practices of the HSPA.

According to our taped interviews, the second reason which motivated the immigrants to leave their loved ones and homeland for Hawaii was the desire for personal liberation. We might even call it an adventurous attitude. The women, more than the men, wanted to get away from the throes of a decaying feudalistic social system which had no regard for women"s rights. The system"s treatment of women was inhumane and brutal. Those courageous and determined women tore themselves away from the debilitating system and dared to defy the traditions of the day by escaping to America.

Besides their desires for personal liberation and to escape the Japanese political oppression in Korea, there was a third common reason for coming to America. They dreamt of America as a place to find a better life. Did they find a better life? How did they find it, if they did? What price did they pay? Our taped interviews will reveal some of their experiences in America.

The personal experiences of the immigrants are our main concern. How did they arrive here? Why did they choose America? What did they do once they got here? Why did they leave Korea and their loved ones behind? These and many other questions have been asked and answered. Some answers are more clear than others, but they have attempted to answer of these questions according to the best of their recollection and knowledge. As far as we know, this project is the first comprehensive oral history of the early Korean immigrants in America and we believe that these are precious documents to be studied not only for the Korean immigrant study but minority studies in general and as a part of the history of the United States.

The Korean community in America was invisible until the 1970"s due to its small numbers; furthermore, they made no collective economic successes like the Chinese communities or the social and cultural successes like the Japanese communities in America. In the field of political activities, however, it is another story. Here the Koreans could claim equality with any other minority group in America. A remarkable phenomenon is their contributions toward the Korean independence movement, and also their participation in the American war effort during the second World War. Until very recently Koreans have shown very little incentive for cooperative action in business endeavors or a planned community to preserve their culture and identity; however, they banded together in the national independence movement in the struggle for liberation from Japanese rule.

Early Korean immigrants contributed their all toward financial support for the Korean patriots living in exile in China and for those involved with the Korean provisional government which was established in Shanghai after the 1919 National Independence Movement in Korea. Koreans abroad supported the government-in-exile tirelessly until 1945.

They also supported those engaged in the war against the Japanese invasion of China, and continued again until 1945. When Korea was liberated from Japan at the end of World War II, the early political activities of the Korean immigrants ceased and their organizations, the Korean National Association of North America, Dongji-hoe, To Aid the Korean Volunteers in China, were practically dismantled.

The political activities of the early Korean immigrants in connection with the liberation of Korea from Japan served many purposes for those alienated in this white-dominated society. Their sufferings and pains in strange and unfriendly surroundings were made more tolerable, their human dignity was sustained and a national pride preserved because of their superordinate goal, in the struggle for independence from Japanese rule. Considering the time they lived and their environment of their time, their motivation and participation were, indeed, admirable and honorable. Presenting such a story, we recognize once again significance of the pluralistic nature as well as the dynamic character of democratic society. The interviewed tapes are available at the libraries of U.C.L.A. and U.S.C. in Los Angeles.
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