Monday, June 4, 2012

My Grandmother Planted Korean Cherry Trees in 1943 with Syngman Rhee

Most of my family tree research has focused on my father's side of the family. But I also have wanted to share some artifacts from my late grandfather's photo book that I recently came across: pictures of my grandmother Doris Yoon back from 1943. In Korean, grandmother is halmoni (할머니). These pictures are an interesting part of US and Korean history for a couple of reasons: 1) Because grandmother is standing with Dr. Syngman Rhee (이승만) in Washington D.C., who was to become the first president of the Republic of Korea and whose presidency was quite controversial; 2) She was working for the Korean Commission in Washington D.C. at the time; and 3) The trees were acknowledged as "Korean cherry trees", a gift from the Korean Women's Relief Society of Honolulu, Hawaii. 

To the right, here's a scan of the original picture in the article below.

Here's a picture of the original article:

The second scan shows Dr. Syngman Rhee:

Here's the text of the article: 
[CAPTION] GIFT FROM SOCIETY -- Mrs. Kenneth Yoon (right), former Island girl now in Washington, D.C., to take part in U.S.-Korean relations, is pictured assisting a student at the American University in planting one of six Korean cherry trees donated by the Korean Women's Relief Society of Honolulu to adorn the university campus. Mrs. Yoon formerly resided on the big Island and attended the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Her husband is now serving with the U.S. armed forces. She represented the Honolulu society at ceremonies attending acceptance of the gift and planting of the trees.

     Mrs. You Sil Lee, president, and the Honolulu chapter, Korean Women's Relief Society, yesterday received from the American University at Washington, D.C., acknowledgement of five Korean cherry trees which the organization presented to be planted on the university campus.
     Signed by President Paul F. Douglas, the certificate of acknowledgement reads:
"The American University expresses deep appreciation to the Korean Women's Relif Society of Honolulu, Hawaii, for its gift of Korean cherry trees which have been planted on the campus to blossom each spring as witness of the freedom and independence of the Republic of Korea."
    Will Be Framed
The certificate bears the official gold seal of the university and will be framed by the local society to hang in its meeting room.
     Mrs. Lee explained that the purpose of the gift to the university was to show approval on the part of the organization for restoring the true name to what were formerly known as "Japanese" cherry trees.
     A concurrent resolution proposed by Rep. J. E. Rankin last April for reference to the House committee on public buildings and grounds stated:
     "Whereas certain cherry trees located around the Tidal Basin in the District of Columbia and in other parts of the District of Columbia have heretofore been known and referred to as 'Japanese cherry trees,' and
     "Whereas it has been established that said cherry trees orginated on the island of Uilung in Korea, and not in Japan:  Therefore be it resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring) that the said cherry trees hereafter be known and referred to as Korean cherry trees."
     Mrs. Yoon Participates
     Because none of the Honolulu members could attend the tree planting rites, Mrs. Kenneth Yoon, island girl and former University of Hawaii student now in Washington to work with Korean representatives there, officiated in behalf of the Honolulu group.
     Officials of the society yesterday declared that its prime interest in procuring recognition of Korea. The organization, however, is actively participating in the victory campaign. It has already bought a $1,000 War Bond as an organization investment and is planning to buy a $500 bond soon.
     The society's newest project is groundwork for the establishment of a Korean chapter of the American Red Cross. 

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