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Korea at the Columbian Exposition and proposal for a commemorative pagoda

This page is brought to you by the Jackson Park Advisory Council with help of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, owner of www.hydepark.org. Editor Gary Ossewaarde


A reference: "A Study of Reconstruction of Chosen Pavilion in Chicago Columbian Exposition," Korean Thought, vol. 24, June 30, 2004, pp. 173-195. Some conclusions in this article are disputed.


In May, 2005, A meeting was held by Ald. Hairston for CEMMA, JPAC reps and others.

Following a presentation, objections to pagoda location by the south end of the lagoons was pressed by Ross Petersen of JPAC and others. Objections included modern structural intrusion into a vista designed by F.L. Olmsted in the 19th century and other historic problems and environmental/natural areas sensitivity. The proposed change was accepted by CEMMA. The new proposed location is south of the Golf Driving Range, closer to Lake Shore Drive. Through oversight, this change was not reported and so not ratified, at the May JPAC meeting, as reported incorrectly in the following Herald article. Following the Herald article is a correction sent to the Herald by Secretary Gary Ossewaarde.

Hyde Park Herald, May 18, 2005. By Mike Stevens

Plans to build a Korean-style pagoda south for Jackson Park's driving range recently received tentative approval [sic!] from the park's advisory council. The octagonal, pine-and-stone structure is meant to memorialize the earliest known place that the Taeguekgi, the Korean flag, was raised in the United States.

Following a presentation of revised plans to Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and advisory council members earlier this month, the group of Northwest-suburban Korean-American championing the pagoda's construction moved on to winning over local residents and raising as much as $2 million to build and endow a maintenance fund to care for it.

"There is support in the Korean community [but] without significant [local] support it's doubtful this will get built," council-member Ross Petersen cautioned.

Council members nixed [but not at a council meeting] the pagoda's original placement south of the lagoon because it would have altered and important vista planned by park-designer Frederick Law Olmsted, Petersen said.

The location shift raised no concerns for 1893 Corea Exhibit Memorial Monument Association President Sung Kim. "I think it's a better place," Kim said. "Everything will be okay."

Some council members had expressed concern that approving the pagoda could open the floodgates to other memorials for countries that participated in the 1893 Columbian Exposition alongside Korea. Petersen reported no such inquiries as of yet.


To the Editor:

In the interest of accurate and useful dissemination of information about the activities of local organizations, I wish to clarify coverage in the May 18 issue about the proposed Korean commemorative exhibit in Jackson Park, now suggested to be placed south of the Golf Driving Range. Such accuracy is especially necessary because park councils have a recognized advisory responsibility to the Chicago Park District.

The 1893 Corea Memorial Monument Association (CEMMA) gave their second presentation to the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) meeting in March, not May 2005. At the March meeting, provisional approval and encouragement to proceed was voted by JPAC.

On May 5, CEMMA, Ross Petersen for JPAC, and others met with Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) to consider the proposed monument, including siting, which had caused concerns. The parties accepted an alternative, less sensitive location.

No report or mention was made of the May 5 meeting at the May 9 JPAC meeting (which was not attended by a representative of the Herald). After the meeting, Peterson realized and regretted that the meeting with the Alderman and the change for the Korean monument were not reported and asked me to add a short notice of the matter for our members in the June JPAC Newsletter.

May I add my sincere appreciation for the Herald’s long-standing attention and thorough coverage of this important park and of JPAC.

Gary M. Ossewaarde, Secretary, Jackson Park Advisory Council

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In March, 2005 the Corea Monument Association returned with a proposal for a pagoda near the south shore of the east lagoon. JPAC passed a resolution of support.(In May, during a meeting facilitated by Ald. Hairston, by mutual agreement with CEMMA, the proposed site was move to south of the Golf Driving range, visible from the Drive, on the beaten path, and away from sensitive historic, vista and natural areas and soccer players.)

Rendering of the proposed monument, as drawn by an architect hired by CEMMA and published in The Korea Daily of Chicago, March 16, 2005. CEMMA presentation at the March 14, 2005 JPAC meeting.

CEMMA rendering of a possible monument to to the 1893 Corea exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition. The Korea Daily March 16, 2005. Note that locale has since been moved away from the lagoon. CEMMA presentation of proposed monument to the March 14, 2005 JPAC meeting. The Korea Daily, March 16, 2005

From the April 2005 JPAC Newsletter:

Members of the Corea Exhibition Memorial Monument Association (CEMMA) and the Korean Trade Association of Chicago presented and discussed background and research on the Korean exhibit and its location at the World’s Columbian Exhibit of 1893 as well as coverage and great interest both in the Korean community in Chicago (including a prize-winning video) and in the Republic of Korea in the exhibit and in a establishing a commemoration of the 1893 Korea exhibit and related events in Jackson Park. Presenters proposed and a showed an architectural presentation rendering of a sloped tile-roof, open columned structure, then suggested to be located overlooking the south end of the East Lagoon, not far removed from where the original exhibit stood in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts building and from the new boardwalk and overlook.

The presenters stated that their organizations would undertake to fund and maintain the monument. Petersen moved that JPAC give and forward its approval and endorsement for f the proposed monument to proceed. Members discussed reservations, particularly about precedents, siting, possible size, and possible standing water. The motion was approved by large number.

The organizations were advised to give their presentation to Alderman Hairston for her consideration, then to contact the Planning and Development Department of the Chicago Park District. All parties were thanked.


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Report by Gary Ossewaarde

An organization of Korean-Americans, Corea Exhibit Memorial Monument Association (a.k.a. 1893 Corea Monument Memorial Association, president Sung Kyu Kim), has researched and seeks to visibly commemorate the 1893 World's Fair and Korean (then sometimes spelled "Corea") participation therein. The Fair was the occasion of a important Korean official, cultural and personal presence in the United States. The exhibit structure was located in the enormous Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, in the center of the park. Possible commemoration has sparked interest in the Korean-American and Korean national press and television.

CEMMA gave a wide-ranging and fascinating video and poster presentation and gently leafed through rare books of the Fair with the Jackson Park Advisory Council at the July 12, 2004 council meeting. The proceedings, including well over an hour of presentation and discussion, were taped for Channel 28. (A return visit was made to the council March, 2005).

The organization asked the council's support in erecting a replica or a smaller commemorative structure to honor Korean presence at the Columbian Exposition. This proposal, in the initial planning and discussion stage now, raised many serious problems, not the least of which are conditions of the Park's national registry which puts restrictions on new structures (as opposed to statuary or plaques) in the parks, how do you then say "no" to dozens of others who may wish such a monumental recognition, and the the fact that the site is in a soccer field and near historically important vistas and environmentally-sensitive natural areas. The Council agreed to work with the organization, Chicago Park District, and the many other interested parties to resolve questions as the organization develops and returns to the council with a concrete proposal.

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Precise handed out at the July 12 JPAC meeting:

The Corea Exhibit Memorial Monument Association

4300 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
773 583-5886, fax 773 583-7009, cell 847 204-6011

Presentation by the 1893 Corea Exhibit Memorial Monument Association at the Jackson Park Advisory Council Meeting. July 12, 2004

To Erect a Monument of the Corea Exhibit

Thank you so much for inviting us here today, the 1893 Corea Exhibit Monument Association. We are so honored to be able to present to you about the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition.

Conceived as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the new world, the World's Fair Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago in 1893. It was a historical landmark event not only in US history but also in the history of Koreans overseas. The Chicago Columbian Exposition was [an early occasion] Koreans presented internationally its national flag, Taeguekgi.

...Yong-kyu Park and Byung-kyu Seo attended the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Park and Seo were the ...overseas employees hired by Kyung Won Chung, who was dispatched as the Corean Commissioner by King Kojung of the Chosun dynasty. Moreover, 10 special royal musicians from Corea performed in front of President [Grover] Cleveland who visited the Corea Exhibit just after the opening ceremony on May 1, 1893. This 19th century Corean musical performance was the first overseas Korean musical performance.*

We Korean Americans are very proud that these historical events happened in Chicago. Hence the 1893 Corea Exhibit Memorial Monument Association (CEMMA) was formed as a non-profit organization Dec. 12, 2003. What we hope to do is raise funds and support to erect a monument at the site of the Columbian Exposition commemorating the Corea Exhibit.

The Korean Media, and particularly Yonhap News (the Korean Associated Press), have reported nationwide in Korea about the CEMMA movement, and it has become a major news story for Koreans both in mainland Korea and Korean Americans wishing to erect a historical monument for the commemoration of the Corea Exhibit and the Two... Overseas Koreans' appearance. We hope that we can gain your important help and support from the JPAC.

Thank you,.

Sung Kyu Kim, President

View of Corea (Chosen) Exhibit by Italian Exhibit, Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893. Un attributed in CEMMA precise, July 12, 2004

*At the opening ceremony with President Cleveland were Commissioner Chong Kwung Wan, his "suits" Chaie Mun Hyun and An Gisum and 10 traditional musicians.

Korean exhibit and shop in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Expostion  

Above: depiction of the exhibit from the Fair's publication. Left: from 1986 Map by Friends of the Parks and others. ( Green lines are roadways and major paths in 1986.
Right: from The Book of the Fair, courtesy of and with identifying marker for Korean Exhibit by transfer from location in Liberal Arts and Manufactures building plan in Book of the Fair: Sun Kyu Kim, President, Corea Exhibit Memorial Monument Association (CEMMA).

Overlay of modern roads on footprint of World's Columbian Exposition Location of Korean exhibit in the Arts And Manufactures Building as transfered from plan in Book of the Fair to map from same.  Sun Kyu Kim, CEMMA

If you look just below the word "Arts" in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts name in the left view and move your eyes parallel with the building's south wall southwestward to near the west wall, you will see where the Korean exhibit was located, currently in a soccer field. The exhibits named by location in a full-page view of the building found by Mr. Kim.

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Herald report of July 28, 2004

[This editor believes the headline of this article (Jackson Park to erect 1893 Korean memorial to be in several regards wholly inaccurate and inappropriate. In addition, the article implies that the Korean government has agreed to give $2 to the monument project. It neglects to say the original exhibit was inside the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. One of the principal basis for reservations about the project is the historic character and recognized template of the park. The article also gives historic information stated at the meeting; it is not the purpose of this page, website or JPAC to deal with the historic minutia of Korean presence in this country. Otherwise the article quite accurately reflects what was said at the JPAC July 12 monthly meeting. GMO.]

By Jeremy Adragna

A group of Northwest Side Korean-Americans are gathering support and money to hoist a memorial to their history in America inside Jackson Park. Sung-kyu Kim is heading up the effort to place a monument somewhere inside the park with help and nearly $2 million from the South Korean government.

Kim says the group has chosen Jackson Park because it is the earliest known place where the Taeguekgi, the Korean flag, was raised in the United States. Along with Korea, the cultures of several foreign nations were represented there as part of the famous 1893 Columbian Exposition.

"Chicago is very important to Korean history," Kim said. He added that the Columbian Exposition was the first time the Korean culture was officially recognized in the United States.

The Corea exhibit Memorial Monument Association (CEMMA), which uses the precolonial era spelling of its country's name, met with the Jackson Park Advisory Council in early July to begin planning the monument and gain their support.

Council Vice President Ross Petersen says CEMMA has presented an idea for a monument but has yet to hammer out exactly what the monument would look like.

Historic photographs from the Columbian Exposition show an original Korean exhibit in the fair as a storefront gazebo. Some say it was located east of Wooded Island on land that is now occupied by a golf driving range. Recreating the gazebo as a memorial was floated to the council but had negative results.

"We don't endorse building inside the park," Petersen said. "It's kind of hard t go in and build something, but we have several different options." Petersen says he would rather endorse a plaque, fountain or statue to commemorate the Koreans in the Columbian Exposition.

Kim says he envisions a monument as a place for Korean tourists and business travelers to visit when they come to Chicago. But he said his group does not want to intrude on the park's design. "We hope to have a monument that will not interrupt the Jackson Park area--a pavilion to watch the shadows of clouds on the water," Kim said. "It would be the first place people go when the come to Chicago...that makes us proud."

CEMMA has begun an expansive research effort to track down the roots of the Korean culture in the United States. Kim believes two men, Tong-kyu Park and Byung-kyu Seo were the first to visit the fair as delegates from their country.

"Chicago is the real birthplace of all Korean people in America," Kim said. "Korean-American history began in 1893."

[Mr. Kim has located the house that a leader of the opening ceremonies, An Gison, bought in the 700 block of 42nd Street, but apparently did not long reside in.]

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