Korean-American Day has come back around once again, providing us a special day to honor the Koreans and their descendants who decided to come to America to create a better life. Last year, we highlighted the achievements of early Korean-Americans as well as the ways their work is currently impacting Korean-Americans today. This year, we are celebrating more Korean-Americans past and present who have left their mark on history books for decades to come.
Park Yong-man - Korean nationalist and independence activist
Park Yong-man was a Korean independence activist who immigrated to the United States of America after spending time in prison for reformist activities in Japanese occupied-Korea. While in the United States, Park was later involved in the establishment of various Korean nationalist organizations in Denver, Nebraska, and Hawaii, along with participating in The New Korea, a Korean-American newspaper founded by the Korean National Association located in San Francisco. His work with these organizations later led to Park becoming recognized as a leader in the Korean-American community.
Angela E. Oh - Attorney, teacher, spokesperson for Korean-American community
Angela E. Oh is an attorney, teacher, and public lecturer known for speaking against disrimination and harassment of minority communities. In 1992, Oh famously gained national prominence as a spokesperson and mediator for the Asian American community following the Los Angeles riots. In June 1997, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the President's Initiative on Race. She served as part of a seven-member Advisory Board to the President in an effort directed at examining how race, racism, and racial differences have affected the United States. Her efforts have continued to this day.
Awkwafina - Actress, comedian
Awkwafina is most definitely the breakout entertainment star of the decade, and has become a premier source of representation for Asian-Americans in entertainment. In the past, the actress portrayed the unique experience of being an Asian-American in The Farewell (2019) - for which she became the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe as a leading actress. In 2021, she also voiced the dragon Sisu in Raya and the Last Dragon and portrayed Katy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Of her career as an Asian-American actress, she stated, “Representation is important because, first of all, it affects the way that we're treated in real life. And second of all, you don't know how to dream if you don't see it. If you don't see it, you won't know it's possible.”
Chloe Kim - Snowboarder, Olympic gold medalist
Chloe Kim might only be 21, but she has undoubtedly made her mark. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, she became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal when she won gold in the women's snowboard halfpipe at 17 years old. She is a six-time X Games gold medalist and the first woman to win two gold medals in snowboarding at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. She is the World, Olympic, Youth Olympic, and X Games champion in the halfpipe and the first to win the title at all four major events. Despite her young age, Kim has been a paramount influence in showcasing a different face in the representation of the United States and continues to do so as she competes internationally.
Roy Choi - Chef
Roy Choi is a chef who gained prominence as the creator of the gourmet Korean-Mexican taco truck Kogi. Choi is known as one of the founders of the gourmet food truck movement. Choi’s cuisine is celebrated for being "food that isn't fancy" and creating food that represents the immigrant experience by combining different cultural recipes. His most famous iteration of this is the Korean taco, where he combined Mexican and Korean flavors. Of his unique cuisine style, Choi said, “The flavor… was a mash up of everything we had gone through in our lives. It became a voice for a certain part of Los Angeles and a certain part of immigration and a certain part of life that wasn't really out there in the universe.