In 2016, the Council of Korean Americans (CKA) organized diverse civic, political and military leaders from across the United States to nominate the late Colonel Young Oak Kim for a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States. Young Oak Kim’s extraordinary service in the United States Army and his compassion for the underprivileged and marginalized epitomize the meaning of public service and social justice. Kim’s legacy reminds us that all of us can be agents for positive change in society by lifting each other up.

About Colonel Young Oak Kim

Young Oak Kim was born in 1919 in Los Angeles. He was a decorated U.S. Army officer whose career included serving in the famed all-Japanese American 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II and becoming the first minority in U.S. Army history to command a battalion in combat, during the Korean War. For his extraordinary military service, Colonel Young Oak Kim was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, two Legions of Merit, and several military commendations from foreign governments – Italy’s Bronze Medal of Military Valor and Military Valor Cross, France’s la Legion D’Honneur, and the Republic of Korea’s Moran Order of Military Merit.
In 1972, Young Oak Kim retired from the U.S. military and dedicated the remainder of his life to humanitarian work in his native Los Angeles. As a civic leader, in his native Southern California, Young Oak Kim founded or served on the board of numerous pan-Asian nonprofit organizations that continue to thrive today.

Kim’s vision and leadership birthed a wide range of organizations, including the Center for Pacific Asian Families; Go For Broke Educational Foundation; Korean Health, Education, Information, and Research Center; Korean American Museum; and the Japanese American National Museum. Kim passed away from cancer in 2005 and is buried in the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii.

If selected, Young Oak Kim would have been the first Korean American to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom since it was established in 1960. Past recipients include Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. While Colonel Kim was not selected to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, CKA is proud to honor a Korean American hero whose legacy continues to inspire us to make positive contributions toward American society.

Young Oak Kim’s Nomination for 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Council of Korean Americans (CKA) would like to thank national, state and local elected officials; diplomatic and military leaders; civic organizations; and educational institutions for supporting the nomination of the late Colonel Young Oak Kim for a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Below is a list of endorsement letters that have been submitted to the White House regarding Young Oak Kim’s nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Federal Elected Officials

“As fellow Californians, we write to express out support for the nomination of the late United States Army Colonel Young Oak Kim for a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.”Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

“Colonel Kim’s legacy continues to live on through the lives he touched and the humanitarian work of his organizations. If selected for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he would be the first Korean American to receive this high honor.”– 33 Members of the United States Congress

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-CT), Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Rob Woodall (D-GA)

“As Members of Congress who represent a diverse America, we believe that Colonel Kim deserves this high honor for his heroic serve in the U.S. Army and his dedicated leadership in underserved communities.”– 25 Members of CAPAC

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-CA), Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY).

“Because of his exemplary lifetime service on behalf of all Americans, Colonel Young Oak Kim is a worthy candidate for the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” – Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

“One of the enduring features of Seattle is its vibrant and diverse community…My Korean friends in the District have often talked about the legendary Colonel Young Oak Kim, and I’m delighted to see his name put forth as a Presidential Medal of Freedom nominee.– Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)

“Colonel Kim’s honorable service has received the highest recognition worldwide, and it would be appropriate to bestow such added recognition here in the United States.” – Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)(D-WA)

“Colonel Kim embodies the patriotism, the American spirit, and the commitment to those around them that so many Korean Americans in the Seventh District also share.” -Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA)

State & Local Elected Officials

“Colonel Kim’s bravery and leadership only propelled me to further help our community and eventually gave me the courage to run for office and be in the position today.” – Councilmember David E. Ryu (D-Los Angeles, CA)

“Colonel Kim is an amazing example of how our democratic ideals and principles are what makes us American, not our ethnicity or background.” – Councilmember Peter L. Kim (R-La Palma, CA)

Media Coverage

See below for media coverage on Young Oak Kim’s nomination for a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

CAPAC Press Conference at the House of Representatives – On May 17, 2016, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Judy Chu held a press conference at the House of Representatives to announce Young Oak Kim’s nomination for a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Remarks by Rep. Charles Rangel” – Founding Member, Congressional Black Caucus

“Remarks by Rep. Maxine Waters” – Former Chair, Congressional Black Caucus

“Remarks by Grace Chung Becker” – Member, Council of Korean Americans, Former George W. Bush Appointee, Department of Justice