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From the Land of Hibiscus

From the Land of Hibiscus: Koreans in Hawai‘i, 1903–1950

Edited by Yŏng-ho Ch’oe
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    From the Land of Hibiscus
    Book Description:

    In 1903, 102 Koreans migrated to Hawai‘i in search of wealth and fortune—the first in their country’s history to live in the Western world. Thousands followed. Most of them, however, found only hardship while working as sugar plantation laborers. Soon after their departure, Korea was colonized by Japan, and overnight they became "international orphans" with no government to protect them. Setting aside their original goal of bettering their own lives, these Korean immigrants redirected their energies to restoring their country’s sovereignty, turning Hawai‘i into a crucially important base of Korean nationalism. From the Land of Hibiscus traces the story of Koreans in Hawai‘i from their first arrival to the eve of Korea’s liberation in 1945. Using newly uncovered evidence, it challenges previously held ideas on the social origins of immigrants. It also examines their political background, the role of Christian churches in immigration, the image of Koreans as depicted in the media, and, above all, nationalist activities. Different approaches to waging the nationalist struggle uncover the causes of feuds that often bitterly divided the Korean community. Finally, the book provides the first in-depth studies of the nationalist activities of Syngman Rhee, the Korean National Association, and the United Korea Committee.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6259-6
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Yŏng-ho Ch’oe

    The hibiscus is the national flower of Korea. From ancient times, Korea has been known as the Land of Hibiscus(kŭnhwa hyangorkŭn’yŏk),as hibiscus flowers adorned all corners of the country with varying colors and beauty. In modern Korea, the hibiscus has symbolized, in addition to its beauty, longevity and endurance as Korea struggled to cope with the dark days of Japanese colonial rule and the tragedies of the division of the country and of the fratricidal Korean War. Koreans nowadays affectionately call their landmugunghwa tongsan(land of hibiscus). It so happens that the hibiscus is the...

  4. 1 The Early Korean Immigration: An Overview
    (pp. 11-40)
    Yŏng-ho Ch’oe

    Known as a Hermit Kingdom, Korea was the last country in Asia to open its door to the Western world. After repeated rejections of Western overtures to negotiate, in 1882 Korea finally signed a treaty of amity and trade with the United States, the first Western country with which Korea established diplomatic ties. Uncertain of the shifting balance of power surrounding the Korean Peninsula, Korea moved to join the family of nations haltingly and with great reluctance in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

    In the meantime, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, unbeknown to Korea, the...

  5. 2 Korean Immigration to Hawai‘i and the Korean Protestant Church
    (pp. 41-52)
    Mahn-Yol Yi

    With the dramatic growth of the sugar industry in Hawai‘i in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) was in constant need of laborers to work on the sugar plantations. Throughout most of its boom years, the HSPA relied heavily on cheap labor from East Asia. At first, the sugar planters imported Chinese laborers, and then Japanese. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Japanese workers began to dominate the labor market, allowing them to wage collective actions such as strikes to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

    To counter this domination...

  6. 3 Syngman Rhee in Hawai‘i: His Activities in the Early Years, 1913–1915
    (pp. 53-88)
    Yŏng-ho Ch’oe

    One of the most important leaders of modern Korea, Syngman Rhee (Yi Sŭng-man) used Hawai‘i as his home base for his nationalist activities during his long years of exile abroad before Korea was freed from Japanese colonial rule. This chapter examines his activities in Hawai‘i from 1913 to 1915.

    Born in 1875 into a family that traced its lineage back to King T’aejo, the founder of the Chosǒn dynasty (he was an eighteenth-generation descendant of Yi Sǒng-gye), Rhee had already had a colorful and turbulent career as a young radical and maverick diplomat before going to Hawai‘i. A garduate of...

  7. 4 Images and Crimes of Koreans in Hawai‘i: Media Portrayals, 1903–1925
    (pp. 89-122)
    Brandon Palmer

    In 1905 Pak Han-no stole $56 and a passport from another Korean and then gambled the money away before the crime was discovered. The victim suspected Pak to be the perpetrator and gathered six friends and tortured Pak until he confessed. His confession resulted in two days of hanging, beatings, and other “Oriental tortures” (a term used by the newspaper). The seven men immediately surrendered themselves to the police. After a single two-day trial, the court sentenced five of the seven to death.¹ This sentence aroused intense debate in Honolulu because many people, especially Rev. John Wadman, the superintendent of...

  8. 5 The March First Movement of 1919 and Koreans in Hawai‘i
    (pp. 123-152)
    Do-Hyung Kim and Yŏng-ho Ch’oe

    The year 1919 was historically significant in Hawai‘i for two reasons. First, it marked the centennial of the death of King Kamehameha I and the succession of Kamehameha II. Second, the outbreak of the great March First Movement in Korea galvanized Koreans in Hawai‘i to work for the independence of their homeland in Korea. On March 1, 1919, following the declaration of Korean independence, virtually the entire population of Korea rose up in what has subsequently been known as the March First Movement. The Koreans were inspired by President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points proposal for peace in Europe to bring...

  9. 6 Local Struggles and Diasporic Politics: The 1931 Court Cases of the Korean National Association of Hawai‘i
    (pp. 153-178)
    Richard S. Kim

    This chapter examines the highly contentious legal battles within the Korean National Association (KNA) of Hawai‘i during 1931. The battles grew out of complicated struggles for community leadership among various groups of Koreans in Hawai‘i. Accordingly, this chapter concerns itself with the factional strife that consumed much of the Korean community of Hawai‘i in 1931. These factional disputes are often cast as meaningless episodes of frivolous community bickering. They are written off as “dead moments” in the history of the Korean independence movement. As a result, the complexities and significance of such factional disputes are greatly diminished. This chapter seeks...

  10. 7 The Unification Movement of the Hawai‘i Korean Community in the 1930s
    (pp. 179-194)
    Sun-Pyo Hong

    To overcome national pain and humiliation, Koreans under Japanese colonial rule continued their struggle for independence. Along with efforts toward national independence, Koreans also struggled to establish internal harmony and solidarity among the various independence movements both in Korea and overseas. These efforts by the Korean independence movement toward establishing internal harmony are important, for such solidarity and unity of purpose were necessary for a more effective struggle toward achieving national independence.

    With this in mind, this chapter examines the unification efforts of Koreans in Hawai‘i during the 1930s. This chapter focuses on the decade of the 1930s, as it...

  11. 8 How Koreans Repealed Their “Enemy Alien” Status: Korean Americans’ Identity, Culture, and National Pride in Wartime Hawai‘i
    (pp. 195-219)
    Lili M. Kim

    World war ii was a race war. For Americans, it was a race war against the Japanese. Outraged by the surprise Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the American people, along with Congress, fully supported President Franklin Roosevelt in declaring war against Japan. Americans, public officials and ordinary citizens alike, knew very little about the Japanese and their culture, and this unfamiliarity and ignorance helped foster fear and racism. Americans readily ascribed notorious and inhumane—even beast-like—qualities to the Japanese as their natural and inherent characteristics. As historian John Dower convincingly documents in his book,War...

  12. 9 “Unity for What? Unity for Whom?”: The United Korean Committee of North America, 1941–1945
    (pp. 220-255)
    Anne Soon Choi

    As overseas nationalist organizations throughout the Korean diaspora worked to liberate their homeland from the yoke of Japanese colonial rule, by the 1930s, Korean nationalist organizations based in Hawai‘i and the continental United States emerged at the forefront of the independence movement. This was the result of a number of factors, including the degree of political freedom available for Korean immigrants in the United States to pursue independence activities, the sympathy of many influential American political and religious leaders concerning the plight of Korea, the emergence of a leadership cohort attuned to the American political system, and the ability of...

  13. 10 Korean Dance in Hawai‘i: A Century in the Public Eye
    (pp. 256-278)
    Judy Van Zile

    Among immigrant communities in Hawai‘i dance has played a significant role in establishing or reinforcing an identity related to that of the homeland, as well as in presenting this identity to the larger community.¹ Dance can be found in public contexts, ranging from formal, evening-length concert presentations to large-scale multicultural community events, as well as in private contexts, which include such things as birthday parties, fundraising activities, and church events intended for a select audience. Korean dance, brought to the Islands by immigrants in the early 1900s, has functioned in both of these arenas for almost a century. During this...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 279-280)
  15. Index
    (pp. 281-287)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 288-288)