Chicago Shimpo
2019 Day of Remembrance: Never Again is Now!
Karen Korematsu Encourages to Speak Up

• Amid increasing concerns about nationalism, immigration, and human rights, the Japanese American (JA) community held Day of Remembrance focusing a title “Never Again is Now!” at the Chicago Historical Museum on February 17. The event has been held annually so as to not forget Executive Order 9066, which was signed on February 19, 1942, and the subsequent internment of approximately 120,000 JAs during WWII.

• M.C. Ryan Kasaaki Yokota, Director of the Development and Legacy Center at the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC), welcomed the audience; Mona Noriega, Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations read the Mayoral Proclamation; Evan Tatsui, Niles North High School, read Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

• Anna Takada, Coordinator of Oral History Project at JASC and Chicago JA Historical Society, screened an oral history spoken by J. M., whose father had been transferred to four to five Department of Justice camps between 1941 and 1944 and subsequently passed away six months after a family reunion in the Minidoka concentration camp in 1944. More information about Oral History Project is available at https://www.jasc-chicago.org.

• Karen Korematsu, Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and daughter of Fred Korematsu, gave a keynote speech, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session by Muhammad Sankari, Lead Organizer of Arab American Action Network, and Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Executive Director of PASO, the West Suburban Action Project.

Stand Up For What is Right

• Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu, founded the Fred T. Korematsu Institute in 2009 and has devoted herself to carry on Korematsu’s legacy as a civil rights advocate, public speaker and educator.

• Karen asked the audience, “If your constitutional rights are taken away, what can you do?”, and said, “One man made a difference, so can you.”

• Fred Korematsu was born in 1919 in Oakland, California, the third son to Japanese parents who were running flower nursery business.
• After Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Navy on December 7, 1941, prejudice and hatred rapidly grew against JAs. Karen said that Fred Korematsu was rejected by a barber and a restaurant. After Executive Order 9066 was signed, JAs had to leave their residences on short notice to internment camps, which were made of tar-paper barracks in 10 deserted areas across the U.S.

• Korematsu refused the internment and decided to move elsewhere with his then girlfriend, but he was arrested within several weeks and jailed in San Francisco. Karen said that her father didn’t believe that the internment would happen because he learned about the U.S. Constitution and civil rights in high school.

• Shortly after his arrest, Ernest Besig, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in northern California, asked him whether he was willing to use his case to test the legality of the JA internment, and Korematsu agreed. It became “Korematsu v. the U.S.”, a famous case.
• He was convicted in federal court on September 8, 1942 for a violation of military orders issued under the authority of Executive Order 9066 and placed on five-year probation in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah.
• ACLU appealed Korematsu’s case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but the court upheld the original verdict on January, 1944. ACLU again brought his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court upheld the lower court’s decision in December, 1944 and reasoned that compulsory exclusion was justified during circumstances of emergency and peril.
• Korematsu remained quiet for more than thirty years and never talked about his case to his children. Karen said that she learned about her father’s case at her high school, as did her brother.

• In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed a special commission to investigate the internment of JAs during WWII, and in the process of the investigation, key documents were found. They revealed that the Solicitor General of the U.S., who argued Korematsu v. the U.S. before the Supreme Court, had deliberately suppressed reports from FBI and military intelligence which concluded that JA citizens posed no security risk.

• After receiving a letter from Peter Irons, who was a core of the investigation, Korematsu decided to fight with the U.S. government to overturn his case.
• On November 10, 1983, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally vacated Korematsu’s conviction.
• Karen recalled that her father never gave up reopening his case.

• Korematsu was honored by President Bill Clinton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 15, 1998. He had been helping human right activities until his death in 2005.
• The state of California established “Fred Korematsu Day” in 2010, followed by Hawaii, Virginia, and Florida.

• President Donald Trump signed the executive order on January 27, 2017 to restrict U.S. entry of the nationals from seven countries where most citizens were Muslim. The order didn’t clearly target a certain group of people, but was tactfully written to do so. The Trump’s order reminded JAs of 9066, which was not targeting JAs, but removed all JAs from West Coast.

• Karen said, “We need to carry on Korematsu’s legacy with education to make sure that those are civic opportunities for students to learn lessons of our history,” and reminded the audience of Fred Korematsu’ words, “Stand up for rights when you see something wrong; otherwise, they won’t to listen to you. Don’t be afraid of speak up.”




Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu, speaks at
2019 Day of Remembrance held in the Chicago Historical Museum



Educational materials provided by the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.


Day of remembrance has seen diverse audience.