WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 17, 2016) — President Barack Obama announced this year’s recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wednesday. While the late Colonel Young Oak Kim was not selected for the award, we want to thank each and every one of you for supporting our effort to nominate him.
Many of you called your elected officials, friends, and colleagues encouraging them to take a stance. Because of you, we built an extraordinary coalition of US Senators, Congressmembers, state and local officials, current and former diplomats, military officials, civic organizations and educational institutions that united in support of Colonel Kim’s nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
If selected, Colonel Kim would have been the first Korean American ever to receive our nation’s highest civilian award.
Although we did not achieve our ultimate goal, we should be proud of what we accomplished and not be discouraged.
In the past year, CKA has been at the forefront in educating our elected officials and the public about Colonel Kim’s life and what it means in today’s context.
Colonel Kim was the first Asian American in the history of the United States Army to command a battalion in combat. He proudly led the famed all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II and volunteered to serve in the Korean War, where he fought with distinction.
For his military service, Colonel Kim earned an unprecedented number of awards: Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, two Legions of Merit, Italy’s Bronze Medal of Military Valor and Military Valor Cross, France’s la Legion D’Honneur, and the Republic of Korea’s Moran Order of Military Merit.
Even more impressive than Colonel Kim’s military awards, however, was his ability to overcome racial divide. Indeed, Kim was truly a man ahead of his time. Upon his commission as a second lieutenant in 1943, Kim was assigned to the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. As the unit’s only Korean American, Kim was offered a transfer due to the Army’s fear of ethnic conflict exacerbated by Japanese colonial rule over Korea. But Kim refused, declaring, “There is no Japanese or Korean here. We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause.”
Today, when racial divide remains an explosive force in too many corners of the United States, all of us would do well to heed Colonel Kim’s prescient words. We are stronger when we work together, rather than vilify those who are different. Indeed, America’s diversity is our greatest strength, which should be celebrated and respected.
Upon retiring from the Army, Colonel Kim selflessly and without fanfare devoted his personal resources toward serving the underprivileged and the marginalized throughout Los Angeles. He was instrumental in building up numerous nonprofit organizations throughout LA to help inner-city youth, the elderly, and minority communities. Among his many accomplishments, Colonel Kim spent ten years to build the Go For Broke Monument and National Education Center in remembrance of the thousands of Nisei veterans who fought during World War II at a time of intense discrimination against Japanese Americans.
Finally, CKA would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for sending letters to the White House in support of Colonel Kim’s nomination for this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom:
Federal Elected Officials:
US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
US Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)
US Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
US Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU)
US Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL)
US Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX)
US Representative Judy Chu (D-CA)
US Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
US Representative Rosa Delauro (D-CT)
US Representative Robert Dold (R-IL)
US Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
US Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
US Representative Mike Honda (D-CA)
US Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
US Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA)
US Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA)
US Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA)
US Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
US Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA)
US Representative Grace Meng (D-NY)
US Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
US Representative Scott Peters (D-CA)
US Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY)
US Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
US Representative Ed Royce (R-CA)
US Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
US Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)
US Representative Mark Takai (D-HI)
US Representative Mark Takano (D-CA)
US Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
US Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA)
US Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)
US Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA)
US Representative Rob Woodall (D-GA)
State & Local Elected Officials:
Councilmember Peter L. Kim (R-La Palma, CA)
Councilmember David E. Ryu (D-City of Los Angeles, CA)
Diplomatic and military officials:
Ahn Ho-Young, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States
Larry R. Ellis, U.S. Army General (Ret.)
Donald Gregg, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
James A. Kelly, Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific
Affairs and U.S. Naval Captain (Ret.)
Thomas A. Schwartz, U.S. Army General (Ret.)
Eric Shinseki, U.S. Army General (Ret.)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles
Center for the Pacific Asian Family
Fred T. Korematsu Institute
Japanese American Citizens League
Japanese American National Museum
Korean American Bar Association
Korean American Foundation
Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center
Korean Resource Center
Korean Youth and Community Center
The Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at the University of
Young Oak Kim Academy in Los Angeles
We especially want to thank the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), led by Chairwoman Judy Chu, for their leadership throughout this process, and the office of Congressman Charles Rangel, who as a fellow Korean War veteran, championed Col. Kim for many years. We also thank President Obama for his consideration of our nomination.
CKA will continue to celebrate Korean Americans who represent the best of our society. Let’s keep moving forward.
CKA is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of successful Korean American leaders. Our mission is to assert a strong, clear voice on issues vital to Korean Americans while helping them engage in American society to achieve meaningful success.