On Friday, Jan. 12, Chancellor Kim Wilcox received a $370,000 donation for the Young Oak Kim (YOK) Center for Korean American Studies at the UC Riverside. The donation was given by Dr. Myung Ki Hong, founder of Dura Coat Products, a Riverside-based oil coating company, and long time activist for Korean American empowerment.
Dr. Hong grew up in South Korea, but moved to the US to study chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1959, Hong graduated with a degree in chemistry. Hong became the founder of Dura Coat Products in 1989, which creates tube and coil coating products that were not only more efficient, but were also eco-friendly, producing less volatile organic compound (VOC) pollutants. After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Dr. Hong became more openly involved in the Korean American community, funding the statue of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, a Korean independence activist, located in downtown Riverside, and donating $2 million to the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for two endowed professorships, which supports a professor’s research.
The institute was named after Colonel Young Oak Kim, the only Korean American officer to serve in a predominantly Japanese American World War II unit. The institute focuses not only on Korean American empowerment, but the ability to “bridge ethnic and generational gaps,” according to the center’s website. The YOK Center studies the history of the Korean diaspora, focusing on those who arrived in the United States; how Korean Americans play into helping unite the North and South Korea and analyzing how the identity of Korean Americans were affected by the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
With the donation given by Dr. Hong, the YOK Center will set up a program structured toward youth, which would fly students from Young Oak Middle School (the first middle school in Los Angeles to name itself after a Korean American) to Washington D.C. to learn the mechanics behind democracy.
YOK Center Director Dr. Edward Taehan Chang, researcher Crystal Baik and Carol Park, researcher at the YOK Center and writer of “Memoir of a Cashier: Korean Americans, Racism, and Riots” did not respond to a request for comment.
The YOK Center is located in CHASS INTN 4031.