The old headquarters of Young Korean Academy, aka Heungsadan, is located on North Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.

The old headquarters of Young Korean Academy, aka Heungsadan, is located on North Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.

By Yoon Sojung

Photos = Ministry of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs

The former headquarters building of Heungsadan, aka Young Korean Academy (YKA), the base of the Korean independence movement’s activities in the U.S. in the early 20th century, now belongs to Korea after being saved from demolition due to real estate development.

The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs on Jan. 2 said, “The final purchase contract was signed on Jan. 31 (local time) to prevent the demolition of the old headquarters building of Heungsandan, the base of U.S. operations of the Korean independence movement during the Japanese colonial period, and preserve it as a historical site of the movement.”

This is the first time for the ministry to buy real estate abroad to preserve a historical site of the movement.

YKA was established on May 13, 1913, in San Francisco, then the hub of the Korean immigrant community, by Ahn Chang-ho (1878-1938), an independence fighter whose pen name was Dosan, for the purpose of national independence and construction of a powerful and independent nation. A branch in Chicago was set up in December that year and others followed throughout the U.S. where Koreans lived.

In 1915, YKA moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Los Angeles into a two-story wooden building owned by an American at 106 North Figueroa Street and used it for 14 years. In 1929, the group moved to another place on South Catalina Street in Los Angeles and three years later, it collected donations to buy the building for use as the headquarters building.

YKA used the building from 1929-48 as its headquarters but relocated to Seoul after Korea gained liberation in 1945. The building on South Catalina Street was later used as the group’s American branch to support education, social activities and protection of rights for Koreans in the U.S. until 1979.

Elder YKA members put the building up for sale in 1979 given the financial difficulty of maintaining it. It was used as a private rental house owned by an American. In 2020, a real estate developer bought it for redevelopment and the building’s existence was threatened as the demolition process was started a year later.

Upon hearing the news of the impending demolition, organizations related to the Korean independence movement in Los Angeles such as YKA, Dosan Ahn Chang-ho Memorial Hall and Project Association, and Korean National Association Memorial Foundation formed a committee to preserve the building.

Civic organizations for historical preservation such as the Los Angeles Conservancy and Asia and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation filed an application to preserve the building as a historical and cultural monument of the city. Their efforts temporarily halted a real estate company from proceeding with the demolition.

In May last year, the owner proposed the building’s sale to the Los Angeles branch of YKA, and the ministry negotiated and concluded its purchase.

The ministry plans to complete renovation of the building’s interior by the first half of 2025 and open it on Liberation Day on Aug. 15 that year.

Minister of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs Park Minshik said, “The preservation of the old headquarters building of YKA, the base of the Korean independence movement in the U.S. against Japan, is an accomplishment jointly achieved by the local Korean community, civic groups and Korean government.”

“The ministry plans to customize the old headquarters building of YKA into an institution of living history, culture and education as well as a communication venue that locals as well as the 600,000 ethnic Koreans in Southern California enjoy visiting. It will also serve as a base for historical sites of Korean independence movement activities in the Americas.”

This photo shows the 24th annual meeting of YKA on Dec. 26, 1937, at its headquarters building in Los Angeles.

This photo shows the 24th annual meeting of YKA on Dec. 26, 1937, at its headquarters building in Los Angeles.