Korean immigration to Hawaii

Korean immigration to Hawaii has been constant since the early 20th century. There have been two distinct points at which immigration has peaked: the first wave from 1903 to 1949, the second wave from 1950 to 1964. On January 13, 2003, George W. Bush made a special proclamation honoring the Centennial of Korean Immigration to the United States, recognizing the contributions of Korean Americans to the nation.

Total population
48,699 (2010)[1]
Regions with significant populations
English, Korean
Presbyterianism, Methodism, Buddhism


The very first large group of Korean immigrants arrived in the United States on January 13, 1903. The Korean Empire had issued Korean Empire passport|its first English-language passports]] to these immigrants the previous year.[2] They travelled on the RMS Gaelic and landed in Hawaii. The passengers were a diverse group with various ages and backgrounds. Among the group were fifty-six men recruited as labourers for sugarcane plantations located on various islands in the Territory of Hawaii, as well as twenty-one women and twenty-five children. Within two years of the first arrival of Korean immigrants, the number of Koreans who had migrated to Hawaii had grown to more than 7,000.[3]

The Purpose of Korean immigration to America

The very first large group of Korean Immigrants settled in America between 1901 and 1905. Between those years 7,226 immigrants, including 6,048 men, 637 women, and 541 children, came on 65 trips. Most of the early immigrants of that period had some contract with American missionaries in Korea. For some Western-oriented Korean intellectuals, immigrating to the United States was considered useful, in part, to help them in the modernization of their homeland. Consequently, the recruiter for labourers for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA), David Deshler, had no trouble finding Koreans from a wide range of social classes willing to sail to Hawaii.[4]

According to Dr. Wayne Patterson during his speech to the Royal Asiatic Society (posted on YouTube September 21, 2013) the transfer of Koreans to Hawaii was against the US Emigration Laws regarding foreign Contract Laborers. Deshler recruited Koreans as strike breakers because Japanese laborers working in the Hawaiian plantations were on strike against the owners of the plantations. Some of the same American business people who overthrew the Hawaiian Monarchy were in collusion with Dr. Horace Allen and Deshler to conjure up a plan to get away with breaking the US Emigration Laws to deal with Japanese worker's strike problems. Most of the Koreans came to Hawaii in 1903 to 1905 through a money laundering scam that paid for the boat passengers' fares from Korea to Hawaii, violating the law. In some cases the Koreans were forced to pay back their fare money to the HSPA.

Decades of new hope, hardships and barriers

Within a century the Korean population in America exploded from roughly seven thousand to about two million.[5]

King Gojong (1852–1919) reigned in Korea at the time of the first migration to America and played a crucial part in the lives of Koreans abroad. Christian missionaries had found their way to Korea during King Gojong's reign. By the 1890s, American missionaries were the most influential in spreading Christianity in Korea. Dr. Horace Allen, missionary-turned-diplomat, was embroiled in Korean politics and in effect was the representative for American trade. The missionaries brought not only Christianity, but also capitalism, Western learning, and Western culture. Many of the immigrants had converted to Christianity.[5]

Protestant evangelism in Korea was predominantly Methodist and Presbyterian. The two Protestant groups decided not to overlap their evangelizing activities. They agreed that the Methodist mission in Hawai'i would minister to the Korean immigrants.[5]

Korea's first formal treaty with America was in May 1882. The treaty was preceded by America's forgotten "little war" of bloody exchanges between the two countries. The little-known episode in American history involved a heavily armed American ship, the Colorado, entering Korean waters and landing its soldiers on Ganghwa Island. A battle ensued in which more than three hundred Koreans and three American soldiers were killed.[5]

The Americans later returned pursuing a treaty, resulting in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1882. Among other things, the treaty contained a provision allowing Korean immigration to America. The first group of immigrants came from Rev. George Heber Jones' Methodist parish in Jemulpo (Inchon).[5]

  • Immigrants prior to 1903: Historical statistics of Hawai'i indicate there were sixteen Koreans in the Territory of Hawai'i in 1902. Some are said to have been ginseng merchants in disguise who came using Chinese passports. One of these ginseng merchants was Choo Eun Yang, who came to Hawai'i and transmigrated to San Francisco around 1898. He became active in the Korean community there, became prosperous, and lived to the age of 102. Among other immigrants, Sung Pong Chang worked for the Circuit Court of Hawai'i and for the Honolulu Police Department as an interpreter until he died in 1949.[5]
  • Four famous Korean immigrants: Dr. Philip Jaisohn (1866–1951), Dr. Syngman Rhee (1875–1965), Dosan Ahn Chang Ho (1878–1938), and Young Man Pak (1877–1928). See also List of notable Korean Americans in Hawaii.[5]


Korean businesses congregate on Keeaumoku Street, which earned the nickname "Koreamoku." Although it has not been officially designated as a Koreatown, the Koreatown designation has been considered by the State of Hawaii within the past few years.[6]

Notable Korean Americans in Hawaii

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Census Bureau: QT-P8: Race Reporting for the Asian Population by Selected Categories: 2010
  2. ^ Choi, Zihn (Winter 2002). "Early Korean Immigrants to America: Their Role in the Establishment of the Republic of Korea" (PDF). East Asian Review. 14 (4): 43–71. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
  3. ^ Chang and Patterson 2003, pp. vii-ix
  4. ^ Chang and Patterson 2003
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Chang and Patterson 2003, pp. 1-10
  6. ^ "Options of the Establishment of a Koreatown in the City and County of Honolulu" (PDF). Office of Planning, Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, State of Hawaii. Retrieved 2015-02-22.


Chinese immigration to Hawaii

The Chinese in Hawaiʻi constitute about 4.7% of the state's population, most of whom (75%) are Cantonese people with ancestors from Zhongshan in Guangdong. This number does not include people of mixed Chinese and Hawaiian descent. If all people with Chinese ancestry in Hawaiʻi (including the Chinese-Hawaiians) are included, they form about 1/3 of Hawaii's entire population. As United States citizens, they are a group of Chinese Americans. A minority of this group have Hakka ancestry.

Cuisine of Hawaii

The cuisine of Hawaii incorporates five distinct styles of food, reflecting the diverse food history of settlement and immigration in the Hawaiian Islands. In the pre-contact period of Ancient Hawaii (300 AD–1778), Polynesian voyagers brought plants and animals to the Islands. As Native Hawaiians settled the area, they fished, raised taro for poi, planted coconuts, sugarcane, sweet potatoes and yams, and cooked meat and fish in earth ovens. After first contact in 1778, European and American cuisine arrived along with missionaries and whalers, who introduced their own foods and built large sugarcane plantations. Christian missionaries brought New England cuisine while whalers introduced salted fish which eventually transformed into the side dish lomilomi salmon.

As pineapple and sugarcane plantations grow, so did demand for labor, bringing many immigrant groups to the Islands between 1850 and 1930. Immigrant workers brought cuisines from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Portugal after arriving in Hawaii, introducing their new foods and influencing the region. The introduction of new ethnic foods, such as Chinese char siu bao (manapua), Portuguese sweet bread and malasadas, and the Japanese bento, combined with the existing indigenous, European, and American foods in the plantation working environments and in the local communities. This blend of cuisines formed a "local food" style unique to Hawaii, resulting in plantation foods like the plate lunch, snacks like Spam musubi, and dishes like the loco moco. Shortly after World War II several well known local restaurants, now in their 7th decade opened their doors to serve "Hawaiian Food". Chefs further refined the local style by inventing Hawaii Regional Cuisine in 1992, a style of cooking that makes use of locally grown ingredients to blend all of Hawaii's historical influences together to form a new fusion cuisine.

George Heber Jones

George Heber Jones (14 August 1867 – 11 May 1919) was an American Christian missionary in Korea. Jones, who grew up in Utica, New York, is notable as the first Protestant missionary in Korea who took an academic approach to the research of Korean religions. He arrived in Korea in 1887 as a Methodist minister; while there, he not only made major contributions to the spread of Christianity in Korea, but also founded three academic journals: The Korean Repository, The Korean Review, and Shinhak Wolbo (Theology Monthly). He also played a significant role in encouraging Korean immigration to Hawaii; of the first ship of Korean migrant laborers bound for Hawaii to work on sugar plantations there, which departed on 22 December 1902, more than half came from his church in Incheon. In July 1907, he was the subject of a murder attempt; Yale University professor George Trumbull Ladd attributed the attack to opinions Jones had expressed in an article he wrote about the suppression of a Korean riot, in which he praised the Japanese police. In general, Jones had a high opinion of Koreans but not of the conditions in Korean society; in particular, he wrote high praise for Korean migrants in Hawaii, attributing their success in their adopted land to their liberation from "the oppressive weight of past tradition, language, [and] association". He died in Miami, Florida on 11 May 1919 after a long illness; his funeral was held in Leonia, New Jersey four days later.


Hawaii ( (listen) hə-WY-ee; Hawaiian: Hawaiʻi [həˈvɐjʔi]) is a state of the United States of America. It is the only state located in the Pacific Ocean and the only state composed entirely of islands.

The state encompasses nearly the entire Hawaiian archipelago, 137 islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). The volcanic archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania. At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight main islands are, in order from northwest to southeast: Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the "Big Island" or "Hawaiʻi Island" to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago.

Hawaii is the 8th smallest geographically and the 11th least populous, but the 13th most densely populated of the 50 states. It is the only state with an Asian American plurality. Hawaii has over 1.4 million permanent residents, along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. The state capital and largest city is Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu. The state's ocean coastline is about 750 miles (1,210 km) long, the fourth longest in the U.S., after the coastlines of Alaska, Florida, and California. Hawaii is the most recent state to join the union, on August 21, 1959. It was an independent nation until 1898.

Hawaii's diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of public beaches, oceanic surroundings, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. Because of its central location in the Pacific and 19th-century labor migration, Hawaii's culture is strongly influenced by North American and East Asian cultures, in addition to its indigenous Hawaiian culture.

Japanese in Hawaii

The Japanese in Hawaii (simply Japanese or “Local Japanese”, rarely Kepanī) are the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii. At their height in 1920, they constituted 43% of Hawaii's population. They now number about 16.7% of the islands' population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The U.S. Census categorizes mixed-race individuals separately, so the proportion of people with some Japanese ancestry is likely much larger.

Koreatown, Los Angeles

Koreatown (Korean: 코리아타운) is a neighborhood in Central Los Angeles, California, centered near Eighth Street and Irolo Street, west of MacArthur Park.

Koreans began immigrating in larger numbers in the 1960s and found housing in the Mid-Wilshire area. Many opened businesses as they found rent and tolerance towards the growing Korean population. Many of the historic Art deco buildings with terra cotta façades have been preserved because the buildings remained economically viable for the new businesses.Despite the name evoking a traditional ethnic enclave, the community is complex and has an impact on areas outside the traditional boundaries. While the neighborhood culture historically was oriented to the Korean immigrant population, Korean business owners are creating stronger ties to the Latino community in Koreatown. The community is highly diverse ethnically, with half the residents being Latino and a third being Asian. Two-thirds of the residents were born outside of the United States, as a high figure compared to the rest of the city.

Portuguese immigration to Hawaii

Portuguese immigration to Hawaii began in 1878 when Portuguese residents made up less than 1% of the Island population. However, the migration that began that year of laborers from Madeira and the Azores to work in the sugarcane plantations rapidly increased the Portuguese presence in Hawaii, and by the end of 1911 nearly 16,000 Portuguese immigrants had arrived.

Puerto Rican immigration to Hawaii

Puerto Rican immigration to Hawaii began when Puerto Rico's sugar industry was devastated by two hurricanes in 1899. The devastation caused a worldwide shortage in sugar and a huge demand for the product from Hawaii. Consequently, Hawaiian sugarcane plantation owners began to recruit the jobless, but experienced, laborers in Puerto Rico.

Spanish immigration to Hawaii

Spanish immigration to Hawaii began in 1907 when the Hawaiian government and the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) decided to supplement their ongoing importation of Portuguese workers to Hawaii with workers recruited from Spain. Importation of Spanish laborers, along with their families, continued until 1913, at which time more than 9,000 Spanish immigrants had been brought in, most recruited to work primarily on the Hawaiian sugarcane plantations.

Ethnic groups in Hawaii
Korean Americans by location
North America
South America
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