Passports Issued to Koreans in Hawai'i, 1910 -1924

Murabayashi, Duk Hee Lee
Lee, Chan
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Center for Korean Studies, School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
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From the time Japan forcefully occupied Taehan Cheguk (Korea) on August 29, 1910, the Japanese government considered Koreans to be “Japanese.” Koreans who wished to travel abroad had to obtain permission and passports from the Japanese government. Koreans living in America, including the Territory of Hawai‘i, also had to obtain new Japanese passports to travel to Korea. In addition, Koreans living in Hawai‘i had to apply at the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu for passports for family members or new brides (“picture brides”) coming to the Islands. The fourteen years between 1910 and 1924 were an open period for Japanese, including Koreans, to join their family members in Hawai‘i. The Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924 closed this window. As a part of the ongoing study of early Koreans in Hawai‘i, this list is limited to the period between 1910 and 1924. About six hundred passports were issued for Koreans living in Hawai‘i to travel to Korea. It is uncertain how many of the six hundred who received passports actually traveled to Korea, how many returned to Korea for good, and how many visited Korea. For example, Kim You-sun, a Methodist church pastor, returned to Korea permanently shortly after he received his passport in August of 1913. But Min Ŭi-Kyŏng (Frank Min’s father), visiting Korea with a passport received from the Japanese consulate in Honolulu, met a beautiful woman in Seoul, whom he married, then returned alone. He obtained a passport for his wife from the consulate, and she joined him in Honolulu at the end of 1913. In addition, approximately 1,300 passports were issued for Koreans in Korea to join family members in Hawai‘i. Again, there is no way of knowing who among these 1,300 passport holders actually came to the Islands. According to the reports of the Commissioner-General of Immigration, only 859 Koreans arrived in Hawai‘i from 1910 through 1924. Regardless of these uncertainties, the “passport list” conveys important information. First, this is the only record showing names in Chinese characters, which is the normal way of naming Koreans. (The ships’ passenger lists of those arriving in Hawai‘i contain romanized names with no indication of the Chinese characters for each name.) Further, if family members came to join their fathers, husbands, or sons, their approximate arrival time can be guessed from the passport issuance date. Third, the list confirms that those who arrived during this period included not only picture brides but also wives and children left behind in Korea when their husbands and fathers came to Hawai‘i. Some men even brought their mothers and fathers during this period. Fourth, the list indicates that Koreans in Hawai‘i were actively traveling to Korea. About one-third of the total passports issued were to Koreans living in Hawai‘i. This list was compiled from the records of the passports issued at the Japanese Consulate General of Honolulu, which are currently kept at the Gaikō Shiryō-kan 外交史料館 (Diplomatic Records Office) in Tokyo. For the convenience of English-speaking readers, names are romanized following the McCune-Reischauer system, even if certain names were commonly spelled differently. The last column indicates when the purpose of the passport application was “reentry” or a trip to Korea. In some cases, the applicant’s occupation was included.
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