One hundred years ago, on January
13, 1903, the S.S. Gaelic arrived in Honolulu Harbor, carrying
the first significant group of Korean immigrants to the New World.
Most would become laborers on Hawaii’s large sugar cane plantations.
A century later, here at the Smithsonian
Institution, we celebrated a century’s worth of achievements
from the Korean American community, with monthly programs that comprised
the Korean American Centennial Commemoration under the auspices
of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.
And what a historical year this proved
to be. We had leading Korean Americans from the fields of journalism,
theater, film, literature, politics and academia. We had a sneak
preview of Better Luck Tomorrow long before it hit your
neighborhood screens. We presented a world premiere of Tracings,
a dance program by Dana Tai Soon Burgess (our favorite poster-child
throughout the year) in conjunction with The John F. Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts, which proved so successful that it will
go on tour to at least five cities starting in April 2004. And,
we concluded the year with a look at the next 100 years ahead.
Not only was the Centennial Commemoration
the first sustained focus on Korean Americans throughout the Smithsonian’s
history, but it was also the first sustained focus of this scope
highlighting any group, regardless of ethnicity. We hope that the
success of this year-long Commemoration will continue to open doors
for more diverse programming throughout the Smithsonian. And not
only because of the lingering smell of kimchi we left behind!
As for me, I’m off to enjoy
some bon bons and long-neglected books. But beware: in the words
of Korean American journalist extraordinaire, K.W. Lee, “Koreans
never die,” so who knows … I just might be back for
the Bicententennial Commemoration if the Boss-man will have me.
Please do visit our Events
page, where you can see the year in review. And click on the corresponding
Photo Gallery buttons
to see what happened each month. I promise it will be an entertaining,
even enlightening experience.
See you at the next Centennial …
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program