Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo



Add Comment
add comment
Asians in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Philip C. Ahn
Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Philip C. Ahn was born in Korea in 1928 to a family of third-generation Christians. His father owned a jewelry business, and his mother was a deaconess in the Presbyterian Church. When Korea was partitioned after World War II, Ahn's parents feared that the Communist government in North Korea would not look favorably on businessmen and Christians, and the family fled to South Korea. They arrived in Seoul at the height of postwar chaos and unemployment. At age 18, however, with five years of high school English, Ahn got a job as interpreter at the U.S. embassy. He also enrolled at a pharmacy school which later became part of the National University in Seoul, and he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1949. During this period a good friend, Young Pai, who was a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, urged Ahn to join him in Minnesota to continue his studies. Ahn was eager to do so and took the government examinations required for study abroad in 1949. He passed the examinations but did not have the necessary financial resources. With the onset of the Korean War and the arrival of United Nations troops, however, the demand for translators and interpreters increased, and from 1950 to 1951 Ahn worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army's 17th Regiment. In 1951 he joined the Korean Army and served as a lieutenant in the liaison corps, where he was an interpreter for the Korean Military Advisory Group, a group of American advisors. In 1953, at the end of the war, Ahn left Korea and enrolled at Macalester College just as Young Pai was leaving. Ahn majored in biology and chemistry and graduated in 1957. He took a job in Austin, Minnesota, as a junior scientist at the Hormel Institute of the University of Minnesota Graduate School. While in Austin Ahn married Betty Engel, also a graduate of Macalester College. Ahn stayed in Austin from 1957 to 1960 and then became an assistant scientist at the U of M Medical School in Minneapolis, where he worked as a physiological chemist from 1960 to 1962, a period in which the basic analysis of nutrition and heart disease was being launched. In 1962 he transferred to the nutrition division of the Home Economics Department on the St. Paul campus, where he worked as a lipid chemist. In the early 1970s Ahn became an associate scientist in the newly established Department of Food Science and Nutrition of the College of Home Economics and College of Agriculture. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Ahn discusses his family background and early experience in Korea during the post-World War II and Korean War periods; the close-knit group of Korean students at Macalester during the 1950s; interracial marriages; difficulties of childrearing in American society; Korean wives of American servicemen who have settled in Minnesota; and the history of the Korean churches in the Twin Cities area. Ahn provides valuable information on the early Korean students at Macalester College during the 1950s, who were the first significant group of Koreans to arrive in the state, many of whom remained as permanent residents. He also contributes useful insight into the acculturation of those who intermarried.
Quantity 3 hours sound cassette
78 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 01:54:32 running time
Creation Narrator: Ahn, Philip C.
Interviewer: Mason, Sarah R.
Made in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Asians
Koreans
Made in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 12/07/1979
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
ID Number OH 51
Accession Number AV1981.361.21
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Asians in Minnesota Oral History Project'