Inland Empire local Myung Ki “Mike” Hong has donated $370,000 to the University of California, Riverside’s Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies.
Hong presented the gift to Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox during a ceremony held Friday, Jan. 12, just one day before the City of Riverside’s celebration of its first-ever Korean American Day on Jan. 13.
YOK Center Director Edward T. Chang said he aims to dedicate the funding to the development of new youth education initiatives, including the potential launch of a program that will see students of the Los Angeles-based Young Oak Kim Academy travel to Washington, D.C., to learn firsthand about how contemporary democracy functions.
“It is a great honor to be able to support UCR’s Young Oak Kim Center,” Hong said, adding that he hopes to see the funding go toward “leadership training for youngsters” of all ethnicities.
Hong was born in South Korea and arrived in the United States as an exchange student in 1954. A 1959 graduate of UCLA, he left the university with a degree in chemistry and founded Dura Coat Products Inc. in 1986. The company, based in Riverside and acquired by Axalta Coating Systems in November, manufactures coil and spray coatings that protect a variety of metal substrates.
“Myung Ki Hong has been a major supporter of the Young Oak Kim Center since its establishment in 2010,” Chang said. “He and I have worked together since the 1992 LA riots, a time when Korean Americans had no voice and very little representation in mainstream society. He wanted to change that, and as a result he has become extremely active in Korean American affairs over the years.”
Hong notably served as chairman of a foundation dedicated to preserving the memory of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, an early leader of Southern California’s Korean American immigrant community. In 2001, he established the nonprofit Bright World Foundation, now known as the M & L Hong Foundation, to empower multi-ethnic communities around the world through philanthropic funding and grant programs. He is also a 2015 recipient of the YOK Center’s Korean American Leader Award.
Named in honor of Col. Young Oak Kim, a highly decorated U.S. Army veteran of World War II and the Korean War who later became a humanitarian, the YOK Center recently celebrated its seventh anniversary.
Its mission of conducting high-level research on Korean American history and identity has produced an oral history project; a film and memoir by researcher Carol Kwang Park about the impact and aftermath of the LA riots; a book about the Willows Korean Aviation School/Corps and an English translation of a biography of Col. Kim; and numerous visits to campus from prominent Korean and Korean American leaders and scholars.