At the end of the 19th century the USA received it’s first refugees from Korea, three pro-Japanese activists seeking exile after an unsuccessful attempt to over throw the government. (Moynihan 45) They were followed by 64 students between 1890 and 1905 to purse further education in the USA. Between 1902 and 1905, 7,000 Korean immigrants arrived in Hawaii. (Thernstrom) From 1903 to 1905, 65 ships carrying 7,226 Koreans, set sail from Inchon for Honolulu. (Bandon 18) When each group arrived they settled on a sugar plantation. (Bandon 18) In 1907 the US government refused to recognize the Korean passport. From that point on, any Korean entering the US had to have a Japanese passport. (Bandon 18) These developments effectively ended almost all Korean immigration to Hawaii and the US for forty years.
Many of the Koreans came because of the sugar industry in Hawaii. It was booming and plantations needed more workers than the native population could supply. (Moynihan 45) At this time, rumors spread among the plantation owners that Koreans were more industrious then either the Chinese or the Japanese. After consulting with the US ambassador to Korea, recruiters became journeying to the peninsulas. (Moynihan 45)
The Hawaii Sugar Planters Association struck a deal with David Declare, who was paid five dollars for every laborer he lured to the Hawaiian Islands. (Moynihan 45) Deshler even offered unsuspecting Koreans loans of $100 so they could travel to Hawaii and get settled. (Moynihan 45)
Despite their distrust of Western ways and people, Koreans of early 1900’s found terms of migration attractive: a monthly wage of $15, free housing, health care, English lessons, and the predominately warm Hawaiian climate. (Moynihan 45) Recruiters in Korea used the upbeat slogan “The country is open- go forward,” which portrayed that Hawaii is a land of opportunity. (Moynihan 46) Like the Chinese and Japanese who were before the Koreans, found plantation life hard an unrewarding. (Moynihan 47) The immigrants were drained by 10-hour work days and 6-day work weeks. (Moynihan 48) Their exhaustion was not related by conditions on the plantation, which in variably included squalid housing, isolation and poor food. (Moynihan 48) One person described his experience as follows:
“I got up at four-thirty in the morning and made my breakfast. I had to be out to the field at five o’clock. I worked ten hours a day with a sixty-seven cent wage. My supervisor ... was very strick with us. He ... did not allow us to stand up straight once we started to work. He treated us like cows and horses. We carried our number all the time as an identification card and we were never called by name, but number.”