On Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2009, Joe Pak, a loan officer, had occasion to go to the Orange County Recorder’s office at the Civic Center in Santa Ana (Joe’s formal name is Dongwoo Joseph Pak, but everyone knows him as “Joe”). He strolled around the area after concluding his business. He saw a jet plane, a war plane—that was a memorial monument to World War I, World War II, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war. He noted 56 names of men who died in the Korean war.
Pak laid a flower at the foot of this monument to pay his respects. And he began to think. He had had business in Washington, D.C. as a member of the National Council on Disability, appointed by President Barack Obama, and for three to four years had visited the capital often. His disability resulted from contracting the polio virus as a child.
Pak had visited the memorials to all the wars there in Lincoln Park. “I was shocked to see that not one name of any of the men who gave their all for the freedom of Korea was listed,” he said. “That was a stark contrast to the Vietnam War memorial. Where do the families of those Korean War soldiers go to remember their loved ones? I approached Jin Oh Kim, 21st president of the Korean American Federation of Orange County. There are 350,000 Korean Americans in Orange County. I explained about the names. I had started researching to get all the names. Mr. Kim said it was a project he would work on as president of the Committee.”
The Orange County Korean War Memorial Committee was incorporated with the state of California August 7, 2013, and Federal non-profit status was duly obtained. Currently, the Committee consists of seven men and one woman. Pak has been secretary-general of the organization since day one.