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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“Korean community” being absent from Korean-American Museum

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Min Byung-yong, director of the Korean History Museum, explains the reason Korean-American Museum project cannot speed up [By Sanjin Kim]

The desire of the Korean community to establish the Korean-American Museum in LA has remained unchanged for over 30 years. Despite providing land and money, the aspiration is still stuck in the early stage.

Min Byung-yong, director of the Korean History Museum, is worried that the aspiration for the Korean-American Museum will disappear after reading the article reported unsolved issues related to the museum. In an interview with The Korea Daily on the 9th, Min said, “There is definitely a problem with the Korean-American Museum project. From the composition of board of directors to transparency, everything should be reformed.”

Min is a historian who has dedicated himself to collecting and researching Korean-immigrant materials. At the same time, he worked as a journalist and editor. He served as the editor-in-chief in The Korea Times. Ironically, the current chairman of the Korean-American Museum is Jae-min Jang, the president of The Korean Times.

He said, “There is a problem when a certain media company promotes it as their own business. The board of directors is closed from the initiation.”

Min Gwan-jang, the head of the Korean community, is scheduled to have a meeting with Korean social leaders this week to discuss the issue of the Korean-American museum.


-Why is the construction of the Korean-American museum facing difficulties in gaining support?

“A museum needs four things. A building, personnel to manage it, resources to run it, and historical materials and artifacts for exhibitions. The Korean-American museum only focused on building and the structure. The problem is that they haven’t even been able to break the ground yet.”


-What do you think the main reason of this issues?

“Long story to short, the problem is the closed-door operation of the board of directors and the lack of transparency in finance. As a result, there are no outreaches to generate interest in the museum. They have not collected historical materials nor have they held events with the Korean community. Even their website is inactive. No one knows exactly where the donated money was spent. It has been operated only by a few board members.”


-Is it possible for the board of directors to change?

“The current board of directors of the Korean-American museum is like a personal board of directors. Even the late Chairman Hong Myung-ki pointed out that ‘We need to build a museum for the entire Korean community, not a museum that has the image of a particular media.’ We need to bring in outsiders who can really work and have expertise to revise the board of directors. It takes a special effort, but it is necessary to create a museum that truly represents the Korean community.”


-How can we reorganize the project?

“The generations have changed. The first generation is in downturn, and the second generation doesn’t know what the immigration history materials mean or how to take care of the artifacts, so more attention should be made to complete the museum project. Everyone needs to get involved in their own areas: volunteer, financially, and professionally. In terms of donations, we need a million dollars, but even 10 or 20 dollars is very important. In that way, it should be a community project. Right now, ‘the Korean community’ is being absent from the project.”


-Can this project raise enough fund to complete it?

“The Korean government was initially willing to help. The Korean community has many invisible wealthy people and experts in various fields. They are the ones who will pay and support the project as long as the project is done transparently. We must see how the Japanese-U.S. Museum did. From families to corporations, everyone collaborated as the one community.”


-Attention from Korean community on the project seems quite low.

“We, as the Korean community, are responsible for the fact that we haven’t been able to break the ground. There are now voices from the outside saying, ‘We shouldn’t do this. This is something that being recognized by key players in the community and even some politicians. So this week, we’re going to have a meeting with some of them to talk about the issue of the Korean-American Museum.”

Reporter Jang-Yeol / jang.yeol@koreadaily.com