Korean community celebrates 120th anniversary of immigration to Hawaii

More than 50,000 Hawaii residents identify as Korean, roughly 2% of Koreans in the US.
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 4:38 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2023 at 5:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 120 years ago, Christ United Methodist Church in Makiki was a sanctuary for the first 102 Korea immigrants who came to work on Hawaii’s plantations.

In a special gathering Friday, the Korean community honored those pioneers at the historic site.

“It’s not only the place of faith and spiritual place, but this is where the people realized they carried on social responsibility through the church,” said Duk Hee Lee Murabayashi, president of the Korean Immigration Research Institute of Hawaii.

The church served as an important source of support, education and activism for early Korean immigrants who fled poverty and Japanese rule and inspired others to pursue the American dream and fight for freedom.

“They sacrificed a lot of things to support their mother country to become independent nation, rather than occupied with the Japan,” Lee said.

Being able to celebrate in person made the anniversary even more special for dozens of community members and officials from Hawaii and South Korea.

“Today will be the beginning of renewing our enduring, enduring friendship,” said Korean Consul General Seok-In Hong.

More than 50,000 Hawaii residents identify as Korean, roughly 2% of Koreans in the US.

About 200,000 Koreans visited Hawaii each year pre-pandemic.

“Our Korean community means a lot to this island to our whole state is a hardworking people who just bring great integrity and just such a rich cultural aspect to our community,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said.

Efforts are underway to preserve their legacy with events throughout the year and a new Korean Community Center at the Makiki Public Library.