Legal fight over century-old Korean papers found in LA ends


The legal fight over thousands of documents chronicling the very early years of Korean immigration to California has ended with a settlement that allows the University of Southern California to digitally archive the papers and then ship them to South Korea for safekeeping.

Under the deal reached last month, the century-old documents could eventually return to Koreatown in Los Angeles once there is a facility to preserve and house them, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Many in the community, as well as historians and officials in Korea, had insisted the materials should be preserved with other contemporaneous archives at the Independence Hall in South Korea. The settlement was submitted to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge last week, the newspaper said.

More than 15,000 pages dating to 1906 were uncovered more than a decade ago by crews renovating a Los Angeles building that had served as headquarters of the Korean National Association, one of the oldest Korean groups to be established in the U.S.

Among the stacks of papers was a 1919 letter to President Woodrow Wilson, asking for his help and protesting the “brutal force” being used to suppress independence efforts back home.

The materials, which include meeting and donation records, publications from the time, flags, banners and some photographs, are due to be scanned and included in the University of Southern California’s Korean American Digital Archive, nearly doubling its size.

Tom Byun, one of the community members who argued for the material to remain in the U.S. rather than being shipped across the Pacific, said he felt strongly that the archive was part of American history.

“Korean-Americans are part of America. … Our blood and sweat is here, our history is here,” he told the Times.