Koreans: When and Why Did They Come?


At the end of the 19th century the USA received it\'s first refugees from
Korea, three pro-Japanese activists seeking exile after an unsuccessful attempt
to over throw the government. (Moynihan 45) They were followed by 64 students
between 1890 and 1905 to purse further education in the USA. Between 1902 and
1905, 7,000 Korean immigrants arrived in Hawaii. (Thernstrom) From 1903 to 1905,
65 ships carrying 7,226 Koreans, set sail from Inchon for Honolulu. (Bandon 18)
When each group arrived they settled on a sugar plantation. (Bandon 18) In 1907
the US government refused to recognize the Korean passport. From that point on,
any Korean entering the US had to have a Japanese passport. (Bandon 18) These
developments effectively ended almost all Korean immigration to Hawaii and the
US for forty years.
Many of the Koreans came because of the sugar industry in Hawaii. It was
booming and plantations needed more workers than the native population could
supply. (Moynihan 45) At this time, rumors spread among the plantation owners
that Koreans were more industrious then either the Chinese or the Japanese.
After consulting with the US ambassador to Korea, recruiters became journeying
to the peninsulas. (Moynihan 45)
The Hawaii Sugar Planters Association struck a deal with David Declare,
who was paid five dollars for every laborer he lured to the Hawaiian Islands.
(Moynihan 45) Deshler even offered unsuspecting Koreans loans of $100 so they
could travel to Hawaii and get settled. (Moynihan 45)
Despite their distrust of Western ways and people, Koreans of early
1900\'s found terms of migration attractive: a monthly wage of $15, free housing,
health care, English lessons, and the predominately warm Hawaiian climate.
(Moynihan 45) Recruiters in Korea used the upbeat slogan “The country is open-
go forward,” which portrayed that Hawaii is a land of opportunity. (Moynihan 46)
Like the Chinese and Japanese who were before the Koreans, found plantation
life hard an unrewarding. (Moynihan 47) The immigrants were drained by 10-hour
work days and 6-day work weeks. (Moynihan 48) Their exhaustion was not related
by conditions on the plantation, which in variably included squalid housing,
isolation and poor food. (Moynihan 48) One person described his experience as
follows:

"I got up at four-thirty in the morning and made my breakfast.
I had to be out to the field at five o\'clock. I worked ten hours
a day with a sixty-seven cent wage. My supervisor ... was very
strick with us. He ... did not allow us to stand up straight once
we started to work. He treated us like cows and horses. We carried
our number all the time as an identification card and we were never
called by name, but number."

Category: History