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Koreans In Washington State

In the early 1900’s, the first Korean immigrants arrived in Hawaii to work in sugar plantations. Eager to escape drought, famine and growing Japanese political control, they were lured to America, the “land of gold.” In the first part of the 20th century, they moved to the Northwest, earning a living on farms, in mines and in canneries. They contributed their hard work and stamina to the building of essential Pacific Northwest industries. The Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924 banned all Asian immigration – except students. After the ban was lifted in 1965, the Korean American population in our state grew to 70,000 by 2003. Koreans have revitalized neighborhood businesses, and have had impressive achievements in science, medicine and the arts.

Today, they still draw strength from their belief in hard work, the value of learning, and the importance of family. Even now, parents continue to sacrifice their own career dreams – working long hours in small businesses and demanding jobs – to buy a better education for their children.


Chang Hei Lee and Gloria Lee with bundles of wild fern shoots, picked in Seattle, 1949.