- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) — The stand off between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions continued to bubble Monday, but President George W. Bush took time to mark a more pleasant plateau in the history of Korean-American relations — the 100th anniversary of the first Korean immigrants landing in America.

"For the past century, Korean immigrants and their descendants have helped build America's prosperity, strengthened America's communities, and defended America's freedoms," Bush said in a special presidential proclamation.

"In the coming months, more than 1 million Korean Americans throughout the nation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States. During this time, we acknowledge and commend Korean Americans for their distinguished achievements in all sectors of life and for their important role in building, defending and sustaining the United States of America."

According to the White House, the first Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on Jan. 13, 1903, aboard the SS Gaelic.

Ties go back further than that, however. The United States was the first Western country to sign a treaty of commerce and amity with Korea in 1882.

Korea was later colonized by Japan. After World War II, the Korean peninsula was split between the U.S.-backed Republic of South Korea and the communist-supported Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Some 37,500 U.S. troops remain in South Korea, a symbol of America's commitment to the South, which it helped defend against a Northern invasion in the early 1950s.

The proclamation — the 237th since Bush took office, declares Jan. 13, 2003, the Centennial of Korean Immigration to the United States, and calls on Americans to observe the anniversary with "appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities honoring Korean immigrants and their descendants … ."

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