SACRAMENTO — Assembly Concurrent Resolution 188, introduced by Assemblymembers Steven Choi (R-Irvine) and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), passed through the State Senate Transportation Committee on June 19.
ACR 188 would designate a specified portion of Interstate 5 in Orange County as the Col. Young Oak Kim, U.S. Army, Memorial Highway. The measure would also request the California Department of Transportation to place signs along the highway showing this special designation.
The cost of the signs that memorialize the Korean American colonel will be covered by donations from non-state sources.
“I am proud to be able to honor this leader, and ask you to join me in saying thank you for the remarkable contributions made by Col. Young Oak Kim,” said Quirk-Silva. “He holds a special place in the Korean American community of California from which he was born, and with further awareness of his deeds, more and more Americans will remember his valor and integrity.
“This memorial will celebrate his heroic efforts in the U.S. Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion, and his life as a champion of human rights, serving underprivileged and minority populations.”
Kim (1919-2005) was born in California and grew up in Downtown Los Angeles. During World War II, he fought with the 100th Infantry Battalion, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. He later rejoined the Army to fight in the Korean War and became the Asian American to command a regular U.S. combat battalion.
For his military service, Kim earned an unprecedented number of awards: Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, two Legions of Merit, Italy’s Bronze Medal of Military Valor and Military Valor Cross, France’s la Legion D’Honneur, and the Republic of Korea’s Moran Order of Military Merit.
Upon his commission as a second lieutenant in 1943, Kim was assigned to the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. As the unit’s only Korean American, Kim was offered a transfer due to the Army’s fear of ethnic conflict exacerbated by Japanese colonial rule over Korea. But Kim refused, declaring, “There is no Japanese or Korean here. We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause.”
Retiring after 30 years with the Army, Kim was a leader in several Asian American community organizations, including Korean American Coalition, Center for Pacific Asian Families, and 100th/442nd/MIS Memorial Foundation. The Young Oak Kim Academy, a middle school in Los Angeles, opened in 2009 and the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies opened at UC Riverside in 2010.