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'History salesman' dedicated to passing data to posterity

2012/03/03 | 229 views |  | Permalink | Source

Min Pyong-yong

Min Pyong-yong publishes first 'Who's Who' of Koreans in US

This is the fourth in a series of interviews that feature individuals who help promote Korean culture overseas. _ ED.

By Jane Han

NEW YORK _ There are those who make history _ and there are others who record it.

As far as Korean-American history goes, Min Pyong-yong's got it covered.

Min created and published the first "Who's Who" of Koreans in the U.S. He says history is made by the people who live it.

"It would be a huge loss for us not to keep a record of all the accomplished Korean-Americans in writing. Each and every one of them helped mold our history in America", said Min, who compiled a bio book of more than 3,000 Koreans who've excelled in the areas of politics, law, media and arts, among other fields.

Published in June, the 467-page who's who allows readers to get an easy grasp of all the different kinds of work Korean immigrants have achieved throughout American history.

But gathering the information _ some dating back to more than 100 years _ was far from easy.

"This is a project that called for countless hours of researching, fact-checking and cross-checking", Min said in an interview with The Korea Times. "The last thing I want is someone to go down in history with a spelling error in their name".

For the 70-year-old, accuracy is second nature as he worked as a journalist for more than 30 years.

"I was always drawn to people throughout my career. Good people make a good society and a good society builds a good history", says Min, who spent the past 12 years preparing the who's who just after retiring in 1999.

Based in Los Angeles, Min set up a regional network of "information collectors" throughout the U.S. to gather data efficiently. Aside from this and making phone calls, he also traveled across the country from Hawaii to Washington, D.C. to meet with people and hear their stories.

Tracking down Korean-Americans and people of Korean descent was the hardest part, Min recalled.

"Once I approached them, it was their decision to get featured or not", he said, adding while most people were thrilled, some turned down the request because of privacy concerns.

After the meticulous procedure, a total of 3,012 Korean-Americans have been highlighted with their biographies and photos in the book without a price tag.

Min distributed the book for free to different libraries in Korea and the U.S. and only accepted donations from individuals who wanted a copy. The same information is also available online at

"It's hard to spend so much time and money on an intensive project like this, but it is so worth it", he says. "It is rewarding to see so many Korean-American judges, social workers, doctors, artists and other professionals make a lasting contribution to this society".

Min, a published author of eight history books and chief of the Korean American History Museum in Los Angeles, calls himself a "history salesman".

"My job is to collect data and pass it on to the coming generation", he says. "This book is a book that requires constant updating so I'm eager to see each edition get richer in content".

최초 미국 한인 인명사전 나와

역사를 만드는 사람이 있고 역사를 기록하는 이들이 있다. 미국 한인 역사에서는 민병용씨가 역사 기록을 맡았다.

민씨는 미국에서 첫번째 한국인 인명사전을 만들고 이를 출간했다. 민씨는 역사는 역사를 사는 사람들이 만드는 것이라고 말한다.

민씨는 "성취를 이룬 모든 미국 한인들에 대해 써서 기록으로 남기지 않는다는 것은 막대한 손실이 될 것이다. 이들 한 사람 한 사람이 미국에서 우리의 역사를 만들었다"고 말했다. 민씨는 정치, 법, 언론 예술 등 분야에서 뛰어난 3천명 이상의 한국인 인명사전을 편찬했다.

지난해 6월에 출간된 467페이지에 달하는 인명사전은 미국 역사 를 통틀어 한국 이민자들이 이룬 서로 다른 일에 대해 이해하기 쉽도록 기술하고 있다.

그러나 100년을 거슬러 오르는 정보를 모으는 일은 쉽지 않았다.

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