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Lawmakers Urge President to Award Medal of Freedom to Asian American War Hero

Colonel Young Oak Kim
Colonel Young Oak Kim

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

A Korean American who fought in both World War II and the Korean War is being recommended for the nation’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Colonel Young-Oak Kim was born in Los Angeles to Soon Kwon Kim and Nora Koh. He tried to enlist in the U.S. Army but was denied until Congress passed a law to add Asian Americans to the draft.

He was assigned to the Japanese American U.S. 100 Infantry Battalion. According to Wikipedia, a unit commander offered Kim a transfer fearing friction between the Korean American and the Japanese Americans in the unit. Kim refused the transfer.

“There [are] no Japanese nor Korean here. We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause,” he is quoted as saying.

Kim’s map reading skills are credited with victories in some “impossible missions.”

During the Korean War, he was assigned as an intelligence officer in the 31st Infantry of the 7th Infantry Division. This only happened after he insisted he be allowed to fight rather than work in the Army Security Agency.

Kim was the first minority officer in U.S. history to command an Army battalion on the battlefield.

“It’s time that the President recognize Young Oak Kim’s military and community service to the nation by choosing him to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” said Rep Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “We are here to put public pressure on the White House. Earlier this year, I urged Members of Congress to join me in this effort – as CAPAC members, we sent a letter to the President urging him to take this action. We hope for a favorable decision, but we will not stop until the White House finally recognizes Colonel Young Oak Kim.”

“Colonel Kim did not let rejection and discrimination define him,” added Rep Mark Takano (D-CA) “After serving in WWII and the Korean War, he spent the rest of his life as an advocate for equality, youth, the elderly, and poor in Los Angeles, regardless of their ethnic background. His work left a legacy on my district, and in Los Angeles.”

Also at the news conference to lend their support were Rep Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Rep Mike Honda (D-CA)


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