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[PROFILE] Peter Chang - 1st Korean American

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  • madchinaman
    First Korean-American Turning 100 By Park Jong-se Chosun Ilbo (S. Korea) September 2, 2003 http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200309/200309020025.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 20, 2003
      First Korean-American Turning 100
      By Park Jong-se
      Chosun Ilbo (S. Korea)
      September 2, 2003
      http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200309/200309020025.html

      PALO ALTO, Calif -- Next month will mark the 100th birthday of Peter
      Chang, whose life itself is the history of Korean immigrants. His
      mother boarded one of Korea's first immigrant boats, the Gallic, in
      1903, well into pregnancy, and gave birth to Chang at the Crusaders
      Hospital in Oakland near San Francisco, as Chang became the first
      Korean-American. Chang considers himself 100 percent Korean and 100
      percent American. He is a citizen of the United States, but he
      cannot escape from being a Korean, which is what makes him a
      quintessential "Korean-American."

      "My father (Chang Hong-bong) was a ginseng trader who escaped to the
      United States to flee Japan's imperialism, but he also disliked the
      racism of America that only gave Asians dirty bottom work," Peter
      Chang explained. "So he took the family to Shanghai, China, and went
      back and forth between China and Australia selling ginseng before he
      met with a sea accident."

      While Chang was working as a waiter at a restaurant in Shanghai, he
      met a Mr. Cunningham, the U.S. consul-general in Shanghai, who
      helped the 18-year old who spoke fluent English get on a boat to the
      United States. En route, he learned navigation skills and earned an
      AB certificate as soon as he got off the boat.

      Chang enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became a sailor in 1922. He
      wanted to enter the U.S. Naval Academy, but he was not given the
      chance to apply because of racial discrimination. Chang chose
      torpedo school and submarine school and graduated both at the head
      of his class. Afterward, he became a torpedo specialist in the U.S.
      Navy.

      Chang's wife, Helen, who died in 1999, once wrote a long letter to
      the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt when Chang was denied promotions
      because of his race. This letter moved the first lady and Chang was
      appointed as chief warrant officer of the navy in 1943, a rare case
      at the time for an Asian.

      Their son, Peter Jr., 67, was the first Korean to graduate from
      Stanford Law School. Their daughter Vula, 62, earned a master's
      degree from Stanford's graduate school of the arts. In 1963, Peter
      Jr., at the age of 26, was selected as the county prosecutor of
      Santa Cruz, becoming the first Asian on the mainland and the
      youngest person to become a selected chief public prosecutor.
      Chang's grandson Peter the third, 44, earned a Ph.D from Maryland
      University in naval architecture and currently works in supplying
      commodities to the navy.
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