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Celebrating the achievements and contributions of Korean Americans to the United States, Korean American Day is observed annually on January 13th—the date of the first Korean immigrants’ arrival on U.S. soil. Korean American Day is recognized as a time for Korean Americans to reflect on their history, celebrate their culture, and honor the sacrifices of their ancestors who came to the United States seeking a better life.

History of Korean American Day

On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 immigrants, mostly young men, arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on the RMS Gaelic. They were the first Korean immigrants to arrive in the United States, and sought a better life, hoping to find work in the sugarcane plantations.

The holiday was first celebrated in 2002 and is recognized by the United States government, but is not a federal holiday.

Korean American Day Timeline

January 13, 1903

Arrival of the RMS Gaelic

The first Korean immigrants arrive in the United States, landing in Honolulu, Hawaii.[1]

August 15, 1948

Republic of Korea established

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union divide the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel. The United States establishes the Republic of Korea in the southern half, while the Soviet Union establishes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north.[2]

June 25, 1950

Korean War begins

The Korean War breaks out when the North Korean People’s Army invades South Korea. The United States comes to the aid of South Korea and leads a coalition of United Nations forces in the war. The conflict ultimately ends in 1953 with an armistice, but no official peace treaty is signed.[3]

October 3, 1965

Immigration and Nationality Act is passed

This act abolishes the national origins quota system that had been in place since the 1920s, allowing for a more diverse range of immigrants to come to the United States. As a result, the number of Korean immigrants to the United States increases significantly.[4]


Korean American Day established

After its first proclamation by President George W. Bush in 2003, Korean American Day is officially founded as a holiday by the U.S. House and Senate.[5]

How to Celebrate Korean American Day

Korean American Day is celebrated by Korean American communities and organizations, and also those who are interested in Korean American culture. There are several ways to celebrate this day. One can learn about the history and culture of Korean Americans, participate in community events or festivals, visit a Korean American-owned business, or try some Korean American cuisine.

Here are some suggestions for celebrating Korean American Day:

Attend a Korean American Day festival or event

Many Korean American communities and organizations host festivals or events to celebrate Korean American Day. These events often include cultural performances, food, and other activities that allow attendees to learn more about Korean American culture.

Learn about Korean history

A great way to celebrate Korean American Day is to learn about the history of Korean Americans in the United States. This can be done by reading books, watching documentaries, or visiting museums or historical sites.

Try Korean American food

Korean American cuisine is a unique blend of Korean and American flavors, and is a great way to celebrate. Some popular dishes to try include Korean BBQ, kimchi, and bibimbap.

Support Korean American businesses

Korean American businesses contribute greatly to the economy and culture of the United States. Consider supporting a Korean American-owned business by shopping there or spreading the word about their products or services.

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