Do you ever get that sense of déjà vu? As I’ve been watching the latest episodes of Infinite Challenge, that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling as it looks like the members were in LA in and around the days after KCON.
At first, it really just did seem like a coincidence that they happen to come across Kim Jong Kook and Zico. Then I noticed that that they stayed at the same hotel that I planned on staying at. I actually stayed at a place only a few blocks away.
But then I noticed that they also visited Joshua Tree National Park. And it’s a bummer that I really didn’t cross paths with them at all throughout my stay. How is that possible?
Despite that, I was really taken with the episode that aired, not for the fact that I could have crossed paths with Yoo Neu Nim but for the interesting Korean history lesson that even I was unaware of. So on the last day of their trip, the group is treated to a tour of Hollywood which led PD Lee Tae Hee. However, it’s so boring that the group complains about it. He literally takes them to see a highway, the Korean Studies Institute at USC, the Korean National Association and the Koreatown Post Office. The group just drives by in their tour van as they look at these buildings from the car window and a part of me understands why they’re bored.
However, once they reach Hollywood Blvd., the PD-nim gives the group a mission. To find, 3 Korean actors on Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s not an easy task. I know. Because my sister and I had gotten a ticket for taking too long to find Lee Byung Hun and Ahn Sung Ki’s signature and handprint.
The other star is a bit more obscure and it belongs to a guy name Philip Ahn. He was an actor in the 40’s and 50’s and the first Asian American to get his star on the boulevard. His father was Ahn Chang Ho, one of the key figures who fought for Korean independence.
The PD-nim explains that all of the “boring” locations he showed them is somehow connected to this important figure. For example, the highway was named the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Memorial Interchange. Dosan is Ahn Chang Ho’s pen name he used. The Korean Studies Institute was the house where Ahn Chang Ho’s wife, Lee Hye Rin raised all of their children.
The Korean National Association was one of the key anti-Japanese independence movement organizations in the U.S. The building is now a museum featuring the efforts of Korean-Americans in this effort. The location where the KNA building is called the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Square. The Koreatown Post Office was named Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Station.
The members show their regret in being ignorant about this history but I have to admit that I was surprised as well. I did not expect that there were many Korean-Americans at the turn of the 20th Century and could not have imagined that there were enough Korean-American immigrants that could rally and fight for cause for their mother country even though they were thousands of miles away. However, it feels patriotic to see that these people, who found a new home in America, never forgot about their roots. Ahn Chang Ho eventually leaves the U.S. to return to Asia to fight for independence from Shanghai, China.
When the Infinite Challenge members return to the Korean National Association, they are greeted by an old man. His name is Ahn Pil Young, aka Ralph Ahn, and he is Ahn Chang Ho’s last surviving child. As I was watching this episode, I distinctly felt that Ahn Pil Young looked familiar to me and then I recalled that he plays the happy-faced but silent Tran on New Girl. Pil Young doesn’t remember his dad because he was not born when Ahn Chang Ho left for Asia but he remembers how his mother and brother instilled in him a pride for the sacrifices their father had made for all Koreans.
In fact, when World War II began, many of his children entered the military because they felt they needed to fight the war against Japan.
Later on that evening, the group is invited to someone’s home, the home of Philip Ahn Cuddy, the son of Susan Ahn Cuddy, the eldest daughter of Ahn Chang Ho. His house is literally a museum of artifacts and I found it amusing that the reason why tip of the Ahn Chang Ho’s pipe is missing from the museum in Korea is because as a child, Philip wanted to keep a keepsake of his grandfather’s for himself. It was also interesting to see that a number of flags that were sewed by Lee Hye Rin for the movement is still in very good condition even though they are about 100 years old.
The group brings a few artifacts back with them to the museum in Korea and they even get to see the sewing machine that Lee Hye Rin used to sew all the flags for the movement.
However, I think being enlightened to a new aspect of history and how Korean-American advanced the effort in their own way left a deeper impact on the group and the sacrifices our forefathers had made for our freedom.