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Remarks by President Moon Jae-in at Posthumous Presentation of Order of Merit to Decorated Independence Activists in Hawaii

  • Date : 2021-09-24 10:05:02
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Remarks by President Moon Jae-in at Posthumous Presentation of Order of Merit to Decorated Independence Activists in Hawaii

(unofficial translation)

Fellow Koreans overseas, descendants of decorated independence activists, 

Today, I have come to hand-deliver the Order of Merit to the descendants of two decorated independence activists – Kim No-di and Ahn Jung-song – who were posthumously honored on the March First Independence Movement Day this year. It is my privilege to become the first president to present the Order of Merit to descendants of Korean independence activists on the foreign soil from which they mounted an independence movement. 

I extend my profound respect and gratitude to these two independence activists who dedicated themselves to the independence of their homeland and national education for Koreans. I etch deep into my heart their practice and noble spirit of patriotism. I offer words of respectful consolation to Winifred Lee Namba and Ann Namba – the daughter and granddaughter of patriot Kim No-di – as well as Karen Ahn and Jeffrey Lim – the granddaughter and grandson of patriot Ahn Jung-song. As descendants of decorated independence activists, they have upheld the cause of their forebears throughout their lives.

President David Lassner of the University of Hawaii, Director Baik Tae-ung of the Center for Korean Studies and Professor Lee Hye-ryeon, who is hosting this ceremony, have worked hard to arrange today’s event. I am truly grateful to you all.

Patriot Kim No-di devoted herself to the Korean independence movement and the education of women. On April 14, 1919, immediately after the start of the March First Independence Movement, she delivered a speech appealing for Korea’s independence at the First Korean Congress held in Philadelphia. She took up a significant role in writing a resolution addressed to the people of Japan. As an executive member of the Korean Women’s Relief Society, she also strived for education aimed at promoting women’s rights.

After leaving her teaching position at Ewha Girls’ School and immigrating to Hawaii, patriot Ahn Jung-song spearheaded a collection drive for the independence movement and the education of her compatriots. Following the country’s liberation, she contributed to the establishment of the Republic of Korea’s government as a delegate from the United Korean Committee in America. Upon the news that the Independence Hall of Korea would be built, she personally visited her homeland in 1983 with materials related to the independence movement in Hawaii. 

Koreans in Hawaii, 

I always feel compassion when I think of the Korean community in Hawaii. The history of Korea’s modern migration started here in 1903 at a time when our country could not protect its people’s lives. The first generation of immigrants who settled here provided support for the independence of their homeland in the face of hard labor and difficult lives. 

They collected more than US$3 million for the independence movement by chipping in one-third of their wages – then under one dollar per day – and formed a supporters’ association for the Provisional Republic of Korea Government to systematically assist the independence movement. This is a history of patriotism that always touches our hearts.

Our compatriots in Hawaii helped and relied on each other to develop community spirit. By establishing Hangeul schools, they taught national consciousness and Korean to their descendants and retained their national identity by publishing newspapers. Thanks to the dedication of the first generation of immigrants, Hawaii has become our small “homeland” as its name suggests.

The Korean community in Hawaii, which started 118 years ago with 102 immigrants, has grown to include 70,000 people. In the United States as a whole, a community of 2.5 million Koreans has been formed. The pride passed on by our forebears has also grown by the same extent. I’d like to express my respect for President Duke Chung of the Korean National Association and Vice President Edmund Whang of Dongji Hoi, who have strived to protect the spirit of the independence movement and the national community, and President Duk Hee Lee Murabayashi of the Korean Immigration Institute, who has studied and publicized the proud history of Korean immigration in the Americas.  

Building upon the dedication of the first generation of immigrants, their descendants are proudly advancing into American society, making great contributions to local communities and the development of the United States in various areas, including politics, the economy, society and culture. Timothy Yi, who is with us today, received a UN-Habitat award for outstanding projects by supplying low-cost housing. Sung Man Park’s students have taken first place at the MathCounts state championship for eight consecutive years. Attorney Lee Jae-young is serving as a youth committee member of the Peaceful Unification Advisory Council and contributing to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

In particular, Robert Ahn, a grandson of national leader Ahn Chang-ho, pen name Dosan, is also with us here. The Republic of Korea is now moving toward that just and strong country that Dosan had longed for so much – a nation where we and our neighbors prosper together and a country that practices mutual benefit and cooperation beyond borders. The unity of all of you overseas Koreans has been a source of great strength.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have honored the day our forebears arrived in Hawaii by designating January 13th as Korean American Day. Thanks to all of you overseas Koreans, the ROK-U.S. alliance could develop into a most exemplary and great alliance that shares the values ​​of freedom, peace, democracy and human rights. Korea and the United States will unwaveringly continue our firm cooperation for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia and the world.

The Korean Government will make efforts to identify the achievements of overseas independence fighters and their descendants to the very last one. We will continuously do all we can to show our respect to those who dedicated themselves to independence by considering it as the Government’s inherent duty and honor.  

Overseas Koreans in Hawaii and descendants of decorated independence activists, 

A joint repatriation ceremony between Korea and the United States will be held this afternoon at Hickam Air Force Base, and the remains of 68 soldiers killed during the Korean War will be returned to their homeland. The remains of the two heroes who have been identified will be transported in the presidential plane with the highest respect.

We will also return home holding in our hearts the spirit of overseas Koreans who love their homeland. I will never forget overseas Koreans who have been with us through thick and thin.

Thank you.

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