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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Transparency concerns rise over stalled Korean American National Museum project

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After more than a decade without even breaking ground, questions are mounting over why the Korean American National Museum project is back to square one.

The board of directors of the Korean American National Museum has remained silent, while the 10th District, which has jurisdiction over the museum site, has remained tight-lipped about the matter.

The new design proposed by the Korean American National Museum

The board of directors of the museum first said in a press release on March 19 that they are in the process of coordinating with 10th District Councilmember Heather Hutt. It also said that it is committed to resolving the matter through its legal team.

Regarding such a situation, the Korea Daily asked Hutt’s office about its discussions with the museum’s board. Devyn Bakewell, director of communications for Hutt’s City Council office, responded, “We met with the Korean American National Museum in October last year and were informed of the new design, but we have not had any contact since then.” Bakewell said, “However, we cannot disclose what was discussed at that time because it was a ‘private’ meeting.”

“The project has been delayed due to a lack of funding and design changes,” he added. “Please contact the Korean American National Museum for more information.

Based on what the councilmember’s office said, the two sides cannot disclose the project’s progress and legal coordination transparently to the community.

Shinae Yoon, the secretary general of the Korean American National Museum, is refusing to comment to the Korea Daily on the matter, after she said she “forwarded it to the board of directors” when asked about it on March 20.

Councilmember Hutt’s office said that they would attend the public hearing for the museum on March 21, but no representatives from the office attended the event.

“Hutt’s office sent an email in the name of the aide Jungmin Lee on March 15, stating that the councilman would not be able to attend the hearing but that an aide would be there to read the letter, but no one showed up,” the hosts of the hearing said.

“After the public hearing, I sent an email to Councilmember Hutt’s office to ask why she didn’t show up, but there was no response,” said Christopher Lee, an architect who attended the hearing. “Not only the board of directors, but also the LA City Councilmember is not being transparent, and we are planning to ask the IRS to audit the committee when the residents’ committee is formed.”

There were also concerns that LA City Councilmember Heather Hutt, who is responsible for overseeing the process and procedures for the museum, was not aware of the importance of the project and the severity of the delays.

“How does it make sense that over 10 million dollars, including money raised by Korean Americans, is being spent, but the discussions are private and cannot be disclosed,” said one guest who participated in the public hearing. “This is disrespectful not only to the Korean American community but to all residents of LA.”

BY BRIAN CHOI, HOONSIK WOO   [ichoi@koreadaily.com]