~~~~~US bill introduced to honor Korean War hero~~~~~ US bill introduced to honor Korean War hero - The Korea Times


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US bill introduced to honor Korean War hero

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By Kang Seung-woo

Four Korean American members of U.S. Congress have introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the late Col. Kim Young-oak for his extraordinary heroism, leadership and humanitarianism.

Kim Young-oak / Yonhap
Kim Young-oak / Yonhap
The four U.S. representatives are Reps. Young Kim, Marilyn Strickland, Michelle Steel and Andy Kim, who also led the introduction of the bill in 2021.

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States. The other is the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Korean Americans have never been recognized by the awards.

Born in 1919 in California, Kim was the son of Korean independence fighter Kim Soon-kwon who fled to the U.S. to continue Korea's independence movement against the Japanese colonial rule.

He was the first minority officer to command an Army combat battalion in American history. He served during World War II and the Korean War. Later, he received the highest honors from the Korean, French and Italian governments. After retirement from the military, Kim dedicated the remainder of his life to the socially weak.

"Col. Kim Young-oak spent his long, full life defying the odds and giving back to our country and our Asian American community. He was a dedicated military hero, from helping liberate Rome from Nazi control during World War II to commanding a U.S. Army battalion during the Korean War. His service only continued after his time in the military, and I feel so blessed to have called him a good friend and mentor," Young Kim said in a press statement.

"I am humbled to use my voice to honor him, just as he told me to honor our shared name, our country and duty to public service. I am glad that all Korean American members of Congress could come together to work to award him this belated and well-deserved Congressional Gold Medal."

Strickland stressed the importance of recognizing and uplifting the exemplary legacy of the colonel.

"Despite the barriers and racism he faced because of his heritage, Col. Kim excelled in his service ― both in our military and in our community. He is more than deserving of this high honor as a military hero during both World War II and the Korean War, and as a steadfast community leader and humanitarian," she said.

Steel said his determination and courage was the epitome of the American spirit.

"Through his service, Col. Kim broke barriers for generations of Asian Americans to follow his footsteps. Col. Kim is more than deserving of this honor and I am proud to join my colleagues in recognizing his public service and heroism." Steel said.

Andy Kim said Asian Pacific Americans' enormous contributions to the U.S. often go unknown or unrecognized.

"Col. Kim Young-oak has earned this recognition through exemplary service not only in uniform, but as a steadfast community leader. Passing this resolution would recognize Col. Kim's impact on countless lives, resilience against systemic racism, and his bravery fighting for our nation," he said, adding that it would also help honor the many heroes and contributions of our Asian American community that deserve to be seen and celebrated.

A middle school was established in Los Angeles in 2009, named after him ― Young Oak Kim Academy.

Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr

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