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Celebrating Madame Nam Chu Koh (Yang)

Madame Nam Chu Koh announcing her $300,000 donation to Dr. Yong-Chool Ha and the audience.

April 15, 2024

On Friday April 5th, the Center for Korea Studies welcomed students, staff, faculty, and community members to celebrate the generous giving of Madame Nam Chu Koh (Yang).

Madame Koh began her relationship with CKS during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, the Center was undertaking serious fundraising to help keep our doors open. Madame Koh contacted CKS Director Yong-Chool Ha to ask how she may be able to help Korea Studies at UW. Professor Ha visited Ms. Koh at her home in Lacey, WA to detail the needs of the Center. After this meeting, Madame Koh began to lay the foundation for her two endowments, the Nam Chu Koh Endowed Ph.D. Fellowship in Korean Studies and the Nam Chu Koh Endowed Fund for Comparative Korean Studies. To date, Madame Koh has given over 1.5 million dollars to the Center. These endowments have allowed the Center to attract and support excellent graduate students and continue to facilitate cutting-edge research among our faculty.

The event featured speeches from Director of the Jackson School, Danny Hoffman; Divisional Dean of Social Sciences, Andrea Woody; Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Seattle, Eunji Seo; President of the Seattle Korean-American Association, Wonjun Kim; Chair of the Korean Women’s Association, Myeong Lae Park; President and former President of the Korean American Historical Society, Mel Kang and Ickwhan Lee; and remarks from two graduate student recipients of Madame Koh’s endowment, Brian Park and Intaek Hong. After these speeches, Madame Koh was welcomed to the stage to share her story and why she has so selflessly supported Korea Studies at the University.

Madame Koh emigrated to Washington in April, 1967 with only two hundred dollars to her name. At the time, as Koh reminded the audience, two hundred dollars was much more than many Koreans came to the U.S. with, but not enough for an easy beginning in Washington.

From 1972 to 1986 Madame Koh worked at various state government agencies in Washington. Koh worked under Governor Daniel Evans on the Asian American Affairs Advisory Council. During her time at the Council, Koh personally encountered the depths of racial and gender discrimination in American society. Her experiences with the Council prompted Madame Koh to participate in grassroots movements which campaigned to promote the status and rights of minorities and women within the United States. She volunteered at Korean language schools, offered her abilities to translate for various state agencies, and coordinated the support for Korean language books within Washington libraries.

These experiences illuminated the importance of Korea Studies to Koh, she explained, and she expressed how she hoped that her donations will support future generations of scholars in Korean language, culture, social sciences, and humanities. She expressed her desire for the scholars trained with support from her endowments to be able to promote Korea and Korea Studies throughout the world.

At the conclusion of her remarks, Madame Koh announced an additional donation of $300,000.

The Center for Korea Studies extends our eternal thanks to Madame Koh and all community members like her who continue to support our mission of expanding the interdisciplinary study of Korea within the Pacific Northwest and beyond.