Korean Studies at USC College
Honoring Tradition, Building CommunityAugust 1, 2006
New Home for Korean Studies
Recognized as a symbol of Korean independence, the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Family House was dedicated March 29 as the home of USC College’s Korean Studies Institute.
The dedication came more than a century after Dosan Ahn Chang Ho arrived in California to lead an international movement to free Korea from Japanese colonial rule.
“This is a sign that the Korean-American community has come of age,” said Chaibong Hahm, the institute’s director. “We now recognize the close and vital link between our [Korean] century of history in Los Angeles and the recent transformation of Korea into a contemporary economic powerhouse.”
The Korean Studies Institute, an epicenter for Korean education and research, serves as an important resource for the Korean-American community. It will also become an integral link between the U.S. and Korea, said USC College Dean Joseph Aoun.
“The [Korean-American] community has been very successful at all levels: financially, culturally,” said Aoun. “It is time now for the community to step up and take a national platform and assume a national role.”
Y.H. Cho, a USC trustee and chairman of Korean Air, said, “We recognize that the Ahn House is an important symbol of Korea’s struggle for independence. It has great meaning to the Korean-American community.”
USC President Steven B. Sample said the Ahn House was an appropriate home for the 10-year-old institute.
“During crucial periods in Korean history, this house was not only a place where the Ahn family lived but a place where members of the Korean community could gather and dream of a better future for Korea,” he said. “This house will once again serve as a vibrant gathering place.”
In Los Angeles, Dosan became the spiritual leader of the Korean independence movement. While Dosan worked to mobilize Koreans abroad, his wife Helen Ahn raised their five children. Dosan died in a Seoul prison on March 10, 1938.
At the ceremony, Susan Ahn Cuddy, 91, the eldest daughter of Dosan and Helen Ahn, recalled that the family home was always packed with visitors.
“We knew about the Korean independence movement firsthand because all the independence workers came through to see my mother,” Ahn Cuddy said. “My mother was a very stoic person who held up her husband’s principles and teachings.”
Ahn Cuddy said the dedication would have thrilled her father.
“He loved America,” she said. “That was the last thing he said to us when he left. ‘Be good Americans. And never forget your heritage.’”
Fund-Raising Dinner Raises $500K
In honor of its 10th anniversary, the USC Korean Studies Institute (KSI) held its inaugural fund-raising gala on March 30. The dinner raised more than $500,000 in new gifts and pledges. Close to 250 guests gathered at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles to commemorate the institute’s first 10 years.
“The fund-raising banquet was a huge success,” said Kay Kyung-Sook Song, USC’s associate vice president for civic and community relations and a KSI advisory board member. “This was the first time that USC has done fund-raising of this magnitude in the Korean community. In one night, we received a half-million dollars, which is the largest amount ever raised in the Korean community for a nonprofit organization.”
In his comments at the dinner, David Lee, chair of the KSI advisory board, noted the institute’s importance to Los Angeles’ Korean-American community. L.A. boasts the largest population of Koreans and those of Korean descent outside of Korea itself.
“We believe that the institute is one of the best ways we can show how important our heritage is to our community,” said Lee. “By examining it through the lens of scholarship, we can gain a greater understanding not only of where we’ve come from but, hopefully, where we’re going.”
USC Trustee Y.H. Cho, chairman of Korean Air, and an anonymous philanthropist both gave leading gifts to sponsor the dinner.
Korea Times publisher Jae Min Chang, a KSI advisory board member, chaired the fund-raising committee for the event. At the podium Chang thanked the donors for their generosity, noting the overwhelming community support that led to the fund-raiser’s success.
“[Our donors] recognize the important role that the Korean Studies Institute will play in our community today and tomorrow,” he said. “We also know that if the institute is to grow over the years, if it is to undertake original research not only in Korean studies but also in Korean-American studies, then the community’s support must grow along with it.”