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UCR exhibit shares history of Riverside’s unknown Koreatown

Pachappa Camp was one of the first known U.S. settlements by Korean immigrants. The town had great impact on the future of Korean politics.

A black and white photo of members of Riverside's Pachappa Camp
Riverside's Korean community standing in front of a building in Pachappa Camp in 1911.
Korean American Digital Archive - University of Southern California

To some, the significance behind the first known Korean American settlement in the United States’ mainland remains an unsung mystery. The town, known as Pachappa Camp, once existed in Downtown Riverside from 1905 to 1918, housing many of the city’s citrus industry workers.

But after studying a map dating back to 1907 which showed an area labeled as a “Korean Settlement,” Edward Chang, professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside, discovered a piece of Riverside’s long unknown history.

Now an exhibit at the university retells and shares this history.

“The reason why some people are so fascinated about this particular site is because it has a direct link to one of the most famous independence leaders of modern Korean history, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho,” Chang said.

Chang Ho originally founded Pachappa Camp and had played a major role in establishing democratic republicanism in modern Korean politics. Professor Chang said Chang Ho helped establish a democracy within the camp.

“It served as an impetus for establishing a democratic form of government in Shanghai,” Professor Chang said.

The community was thriving and active until 1913, when the Big Freeze occurred, which permanently left a mark on the region’s citrus industry. Few Pachappa Camp residents stayed after the tragic events, but all eventually left the settlement by 1918. Professor Chang said there are talks with the city to create a museum to feature this part of Riverside’s Koreatown history, with no plans yet solidified.

“I encourage everyone to come and take a look at this special exhibition and kind of relive what it was like to be a farmworker of Korean immigrants around the [early 1900s],” he added.

The exhibit will remain open through January 9, 2022 and features a collection of photos and documents from a descendant of Pachappa Camp residents.