This exhibit has been divided into thematic sections that correspond with how the physical exhibition would be laid out and experienced. We recommend viewing this exhibit in the order arranged below.

Questions about this exhibit? Please contact curator Rosemarie Nahm at with the subject line “OACC Exhibit.”

Curator’s Message

When I started studying early Korean immigration history, I was surprised that there were so few books and papers on the subject written in English. Most of the English-language sources I was able to find were about immigration to Hawaii but not the mainland US. The Korean government and scholars had done extensive research about the early Koreans in the US. However, most of the materials were written in Korean, and from the perspective of the home country studying its expatriates. The study of early Korean immigration as American history about a distinct immigrant group was noticeably lacking. As a 1.5 generation Korean American still able to read Korean, I felt uniquely positioned to help fill this void. San Francisco Beginnings is about the Korean pioneers who sowed the seeds of resilience and hard work in this country and established their roots as Korean Americans. I am thrilled to share this lesser-known chapter of Bay Area history and American history.

I owe a huge thanks to my exhibit designer-in-chief and intern, Regina Lim. While juggling her academic load as a Junior at UC Berkeley and a job, Regina devoted countless hours designing and perfecting the exhibit. I am deeply grateful to Phil Shinn and Gail Whang who shared a treasure trove of photos and stories from their family immigration history. They have enriched this exhibit with rarely available details from the lives of early Korean families. I am thankful to Kenneth Klein and Joy Kim at the USC East Asian Library, who as always provided prompt and helpful guidance to my research questions. Last but not least, I sincerely thank the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in San Francisco, and the Korean American Community Foundation-SF for making this exhibit possible.

Rosemarie Nahm
August 2020

Copyright © 2020 by Rosemarie Nahm.  All photos in this exhibit were approved for use solely for this exhibit and may not be used for any other purpose.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in San Francisco and Korean American Community Foundation-SF.