Hanseung Oh’s remarkable journey of volunteerism embodies the essence of community building and honoring history, with personal passion at the center. Over the past five years, Hanseung has devoted his time and skills to supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities, Korean immigrants and Korean War veterans in Pennsylvania, showcasing his multifaceted approach to service and his deep commitment to his community.
As an immigrant himself, Hanseung’s work with the Korean American Association of Greater Pittsburgh is a reflection of his commitment to promoting civic engagement and sharing Korean culture and traditions within the community. Hanseung’s dedication to Korean War veterans is particularly noteworthy. He leads the Korean War Veterans Memorial Maintenance Team, gathering students and parents to clean and maintain the memorial every Saturday morning. This consistent effort ensures that the sacrifices of veterans are remembered and honored. His work has increased visitor engagement at the memorial, fostering a deeper appreciation and understanding of the veterans’ bravery.
Hanseung’s commitment to honoring Korean War veterans has even extended into the literary realm with the publication of a book documenting the history of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 74. This project involved interviewing veterans, visiting their homes and ultimately distributing the book to 48 school districts across Western Pennsylvania. The book serves as an educational tool for more than 50,000 students, offering insights into the Korean War and the lives of local veterans. This initiative, which commemorates the “Forgotten War,” is a testament to Hanseung’s passion for preserving history and educating future generations.
Find out more about what inspires Hanseung to carry on his journey of civic engagement for the benefit of many.
Tell us about your volunteer role.
I started off just cleaning the Korean War Memorial in downtown Pittsburgh. But later on, as I got more involved and worked with them for a couple of years, I was approached to become the president of the maintenance team. Through that, I started to communicate with other members who were helping clean up the memorial. I was responsible for sending out important dates and events they should consider attending, making schedules for everyone and communicating their dates for cleaning up the memorial. And if something came up that kept them from volunteering, I’d go down and clean up the memorial in their place.
Why is this issue so important to you?
As a Korean American, I wanted a deeper sense in my community. My parents were born in Korea and so was I, but I moved here when I was fairly young, so I felt a lack of connection with my Korean culture. Being able to learn more about the history of my people, meeting Korean War veterans. It was honestly such a great way for me to connect with my Korean side and get to learn more about the history of the Korean War and Korea in general.
What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?
Well, I mainly hope to spread awareness about the Korean War and Korean War veterans. I wrote a book to help share what our local Korean War veterans have done. Most of the time, the Korean War is known as or often regarded as the “forgotten war.” I wrote a book to document the journey of Korean War veterans, their efforts and everything they’ve done to make themselves known and, for the most part, set South Korea free.
I’ve sent out books to 48 school districts in the local area in hopes of reaching more students and helping to educate them. It came to my attention that schools may be skimming past some of the history and contents of the Korean War. The book is called “The Chronicles of the Korean War Veterans Association of Western Pennsylvania,” and is distributed locally.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Definitely seeing all the veterans smiling and being so happy. I’ve noticed that, for being up there in age, they’re always so cheerful. Whenever they come down to the Korean War Memorial, seeing all the efforts and the clean-up that we’ve done, and then when they receive the book, seeing them so happy, seeing them reminisce about the past, is always very heartwarming.
Why is it important for people to get involved with the causes they care about?
I think even the smallest things make such a huge impact. When I first started off cleaning the Korean War Memorial, I didn’t think it was doing much because I didn’t have that connection yet. But then after seeing how much joy it brought to the Korean War veterans, I realized that even these small, sometimes relatively easy things you can do, may not seem like a lot to you, but to someone else it could make their day.
Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?
I think you just have to put yourself out there and go for things that interest you or that you think could benefit others. When I first started off, I wasn’t sure about my impact. I didn’t know how long I’d continue with that volunteer work. But putting myself out there gave me the great opportunity to befriend these Korean War veterans, make an impact and try to educate more people. I’ve made many great memories just from the things I did. So, putting yourself out there and reaching out is always the best first step.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Anything is possible. I never thought I’d be a part of something so big, making an impact on my community or meeting so many veterans or even writing a book. This wasn’t something I ever had on my list of things to accomplish. But anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard at it. Be optimistic that things will work out.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Hanseung? Find local volunteer opportunities.