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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

First Korean American to be featured in U.S. Mint’s 2025 Quarter

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Korean American Stacey Park Milbern with the 25-cent coin design the Mint is considering.


The Korean American woman will be featured on the reverse of the “Quarter” coin in 2025.

The United States Mint (USM) announced the five featured women in the American Women Quarters™ Program on October 17, including Korean American Stacey Park Milbern. This is the first time a Korean American has been featured on U.S. currency.

Park Milbern, who passed away at the age of 33 in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a woman with severe disabilities due to congenital muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease.

Born to a white father and a Korean mother who served in the U.S. Army in South Korea, Milbern was known as a human rights activist who worked to advance the rights of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups from the time she was a teenager.

U.S. Mint Director Ventris Gibson said it is a privilege to honor women like Park Milbern and tell their stories through American Women Quarters. “Each of these women contributed to American history in their own unique way and made a difference in the society we now live in.”

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Park Milbern later grew up in North Carolina. As a student, she became active in civil rights organizations and wrote about the injustices faced by people with disabilities.

At that time, the North Carolina state government appointed her as a commissioner for the Disability Association. As an LGBTQ person, Milbern was instrumental in getting a bill passed in the North Carolina legislature in 2007 that required disability history to be taught in public schools. She was also instrumental in passing legislation to recognize Disability History and Awareness Month.

In 2014, Park Milbern was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Park is a graduate of Methodist University and Mills College. She moved to Northern California after identifying as a “Korean-American queer” on her blog and elsewhere.

Since then, she has been a vocal advocate for human rights for people with disabilities, people of color, and sexual minorities through writing and speaking in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Milbern continued to help others until her death from complications following surgery for kidney cancer. During the pandemic, while battling cancer, she helped the homeless and disabled by creating prevention kits, including masks and hand sanitizer.

She died coincidentally on her birthday (May 19). On that day, Google replaced its website logo with a Milbern Google Doodle on the site’s homepage.

Park Milbern’s face will appear on the back of the Quarter coin, alongside George Washington on the front. The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) created the designs for each figure, which are being reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC).

In the case of Park Milbern, she will be depicted sitting in a wheelchair and smiling. Once reviewed, the coin design will be given final approval by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The coin bearing her image will be released in 2025. The coins will be manufactured at the Mint’s facilities in Philadelphia and Denver.

Meanwhile, the program began in 2022, following legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D). Women honored by the Mint include Black journalist Ida B. Wells, astronomer Dr. Vera Rubin, Black tennis player Althea Gibson, and Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low.

BY YEOL JANG, JUNHAN PARK    [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]