By Bettye Miller
Koreatown event also honors key supporters Myung Ki Hong and Jay Kim
More than 250 friends and supporters of UC Riverside’s Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies gathered Nov. 12 at the Oxford Palace Hotel in Koreatown in Los Angeles to celebrate the center’s five-year anniversary.
Longtime supporter Myung Ki “Mike” Hong, president of Dura Coat Products Inc., received the YOK Center Korean American Leader Award, and Jay Kim, president of the Overseas Korean Traders Association of Los Angeles, received the YOK Center Supporter Award.
The YOK Center opened at UC Riverside in September 2010. It is dedicated to understanding 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.
Among the dignitaries attending the event were Korea Consul General Hyun Myung Kim; Te Rang Rim of the National Unification Advisory Council Los Angeles A Chapter; Myung and Lorrie Hong; Jay Kim; Ralph and Ann Ahn of the Korean American Pioneer Council; and keynote speaker Sukhee Kang, former mayor of Irvine and 29th Congressional District candidate.
Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox told the gathering that the YOK Center has accomplished much in a short period of time, establishing it as an integral part of the Korean American community. UCR is committed to assuring its future, he said.
Edward T. Chang, center director and professor of ethnic studies, said he was proud of the center’s achievements and grateful to supporters who have helped to further its goals.
“Our mission is to raise the voice and identity of Korean Americans,” he said, noting that the YOK Center is one of only a few in the U.S. dedicated to the study of the Korean American community. “We have accomplished much in a short time, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to make this the preeminent center for Korean American studies in the nation.”
Since it opened, the center has launched an oral history project; developed a new course at UCR on the history of Koreans in the U.S.; produced a film about the impact of the Los Angeles Riots on the Korean American community; created the annual YOK Quiz Bowl for middle-school students to test their knowledge of Col. Kim and Korean American history; published a book about the Willows Korean Aviation School/Corps and an English translation of a biography of Col. Kim; and brought prominent Korean and Korean American leaders and scholars to the campus, including Korean Consul General Hyun-myung Kim.
The center is named after Col. Young Oak Kim, a highly decorated U.S. Army veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He was also a humanitarian who worked tirelessly to better his community.