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Korematsu's efforts resulted in apology by U.S. government

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jan 30 2013 06:48:00 PM HST

Celebrating Fred Korematsu's life and legacy.

HONOLULU -

The first thing I said this morning was 'Happy Birthday Daddy,'" said Karen Korematsu.

At the Arizona Memorial, eight years after his death, decades after his fight began, the first public showing of a documentary about her father, Fred Korematsu.

"You're not an American, and I thought that was wrong," said Korematsu in the documentary called "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story."

Korematsu was 23 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

He and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps.

"But my father’s way of patriotism was showing what was right," said Karen Korematsu.

Fighting internment from day one, Korematsu carried his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

He lost that challenge in 1944, but was vindicated in 1983 by an apology to interned Japanese-Americans from the U.S. government.

In 1998, Korematsu was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal in the country.

"The students really caught on to the story and don't be afraid to stand up," said Waialua teacher Mary Chun.

Two other states, California and Utah, have already proclaimed Fred Korematsu day, but not Hawaii.

It wasn't until Hawaii high school students wrote a letter to Gov. Abercrombie asking to make it happen -- and it did.

"Dear Governor Abercrombie," began Nicole Verdadro. She and her Waialua High School classmates wrote letters last year.

"It was big to me and it felt important and I felt like he should be honored for it," said Verdadro.

A few months later, she got a letter back:

"And attached to it was a proclamation," said Chun.

"Being here today and seeing all these children, seeing his documentary, to have this day be a day recognized by the state of Hawaii, he would have been so touched," said Karen Korematsu, trying to hold back the tears.

"I just want to wish him a Happy Birthday and honor him today," said Farrington High School student Shai-lynn Ranchez-Langit.

Sen. Les Ihara has introduced a bill in the 2013 legislative session to make Korematsu Day live in perpetuity.

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