Los Angeles Honors Two APA Community Pioneers In Celebration Of APAHM

The City of Los Angeles honored on Tuesday two Asian American civic leaders, Dr. Mike Hong and former City Councilman Michael Woo, in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Dr. Hong, a longtime mentor to leagues of Korean Americans in Southern California, is a philanthropist and founder of both Dura Coat Products and the M&L Hong Foundation. Woo, who was the first Asian American elected to the city’s City Council in 1985, is dean of the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona.

While introducing Hong and Woo, Councilman David Ryu — himself only the second Asian American elected to office in the city, and the first Korean American — called the two community pioneers “titans.”

Speaking inside council chambers, Hong spoke of his humble beginnings as a young immigrant from South Korea in the 1950s. He arrived looking for education in the land of opportunity, and found it through the goodwill of an English teacher who provided him with the $200 tuition he needed to get started. Along the way, he worked, he said, as a house boy to pursue his chemistry degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

“That $200 enabled me to stand here today,” Hong said. In 2015, UCLA presented Hong with its chemistry & biochemistry alumni award. “That’s why, when I became successful, I wanted to make a foundation and I wanted to do the same, maybe more, as [my professor] did for me.” 

Woo, the son of Chinese immigrants, served eight years in the council representing District 13. He said he looks toward the younger generation, like Ryu, to continue contributing to public service. “This community and this city still needs leadership and representation on behalf of all ethnic groups in this city, especially Asian Americans,” Woo said.  

Los Angeles is host to one of the largest annual APAHM celebrations in the country, which officially began in 1949. This year’s month kicked off with the designation of May 2 as Fresh Off The Boat Day, in honor of the television series’ cultural impact, and continued with an outdoor concert on the steps of City Hall, exhibitions, public discussions and screenings.  

“Our API community needs to be united,” Hong said. “APIs have done so much to make a difference to Los Angeles. How can we do just that, and support our younger generation to make it greater and brighter?”