by Grant Din
One hundred years after the Immigration Station opened, we are still uncovering bits and pieces of the Angel Island story. The following poem, “A Night at the Immigration Station” by Choi Kyung Sik was found by researchers Charles Egan, a professor at San Francisco State University, and his assistant Jikyung Hwang as they went through back issues of the San Francisco-based Shinhan Minbo newspaper. Mr. Choi’s poem was published on April 25, 1925, and this English translation is by Jikyung Hwang and Charles Egan.
When informed of this discovery, Grant Din, AIISF’s Director of Special Projects, looked up Mr. Choi’s name on Ancestry.com and found a listing for him on the Taiyo Maru, which arrived in San Francisco on April 3, 1925. Eddie Wong then went to the National Archives in San Bruno and found his immigration file and photo. From these records, we learned that Mr. Choi was born in Pyongwon County in South Pyongan Province. He was 20 years old when he arrived at Angel Island and had graduated from Chosen Christian College in Seoul as an English major. He immigrated as a student and was accepted at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. There, he continued his study of English literature and became a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, which was organized to bring foreign students together with American students. According to new research by Professor Egan, Mr. Choi stayed at DePauw for one year and then went to Northwestern University in Chicago, where he earned his M.A. degree. His thesis was “The Urban Problem in Korea under the Japanese Regime.” Sadly, he died in 1932 in Chicago due to chronic cardio-valvular disease, with associated kidney disease.
April 30, 1925
This tired traveler
Has crossed a vast ocean --
Why must I sleep behind iron bars?
The rain cries out and wakes me up
Because it pities me.
Angel Island, sleeping tight,
No matter whether you hear this song or not,
It is the complaint of a foreign guest
Whose whole heart is burning.
Even though it’s said America is wonderful,
How pathetic it has made me.
If my mother knew about this,
How shocked she would be.
This border created by rascals –
When can it be broken?
I hope people all over the world
Will become brothers soon.
Written on a rainy night at the Immigration Station on Angel Island, San Francisco, America.
Place of Origin
Place of Settlement