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From the Land of Hibiscus

Yong-ho Ch'oe (ed.)

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-9

The hibiscus is the national flower of Korea. From ancient times, Korea has been known as the Land of Hibiscus (kûnhwa hyang or kûn’yôk), 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...

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1. The Early Korean Immigration: An Overview

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pp. 11-40

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...

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2. Korean Immigration to Hawai‘i and the Korean Protestant Church

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pp. 41-52

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...

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3. Syngman Rhee in Hawai‘i: His Activities in the Early Years, 1913–1915

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pp. 53-88

One of the most important leaders of modern Korea, Syngman Rhee (Yi Sûng-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. ...

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4. Images and Crimes of Koreans in Hawai‘i: Media Portrayals, 1903–1925

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pp. 89-122

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...

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5. The March First Movement of 1919 and Koreans in Hawai‘i

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pp. 123-152

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...

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6. Local Struggles and Diasporic Politics: The 1931 Court Cases of the Korean National Association of Hawai‘i

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pp. 153-178

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...

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7. The Unification Movement of the Hawai‘i Korean Community in the 1930s

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pp. 179-194

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...

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8. How Koreans Repealed Their “Enemy Alien” Status: Korean Americans’ Identity, Culture, and National Pride in Wartime Hawai‘i

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pp. 195-219

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...

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9. “Unity for What? Unity for Whom?”: The United Korean Committee of North America, 1941–1945

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pp. 220-255

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...

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10. Korean Dance in Hawai‘i: A Century in the Public Eye

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pp. 256-277

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...


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pp. 279


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pp. 281-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824829810

Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Hawaii -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Hawaii -- History -- 1900-1959.
  • Koreans -- Hawaii -- History -- 20th century.
  • Koreans -- Hawaii -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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