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David Hyun papers

Identifier: 3027

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Scope and Contents

The David Hyun papers, 1744-2005 (bulk 1919-2003), consist of writings, photographs, biographical materials, oral histories, architectural portfolios and renderings, materials related to Reverend Soon Hyun, and articles and clippings created and collected by David Hyun during his life and career as an architect, essayist and activist in both Hawaii and Los Angeles.The majority of the material in this collection comprise writings (by himself and others), photographs, and architectural drawings and renderings.

Hyun's own writings are largely biographical and anecdotal in nature, mainly focused on his family (in particular his father Reverend Soon Hyun), ancestral heritage and upbringing as a Korean American, and personal matters such as his battles with depression. Hyun's writings exist in the form of essays, short stories, poems, and diaries. There are many versions of the same stories within the collection (as Hyun performed considerable rewrites of his works) and various formats displayed (i.e. handwritten drafts, typescripts, spiral-bound manuscripts, published articles and clippings). In addition, there are also some speeches and architectural writings. The remainder of the writings are largely by David's brother, Peter Hyun.

The photographs within the collection are representative of Hyun's familial history and life, as well as trips he took with his wife, artistic shots of landscapes and flowers, and a trip to Korea for the reburial ceremony of his parents, and many materials relating to Soon Hyun. These items are expressed in varying formats including print photos, slides, negatives, and a few laminated and matted photographs. Additionally, there are paintings collected by David Hyun.

There are a large number of architectural drawings and renderings, particularly of the Japanese Village Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, Hyun's most famous designed work. Additionally there are blueprints and floor plans from some of Hyun's other projects, including the design of his family residence, as well architectural project portfolios.

The collection also features many materials relating to Reverend Soon Hyun. These include Soon's own autobiographies, historical and legal documents, translations of works, and writings by both David and Peter Hyun. There is also a large number of subject files within the collection, documenting Hyun's involvement with various organizations including the Korean American Coalition, the Korean Methodist Church, the Korean Independence Historical Association, Inc. (KIHAI), and his close work with USC regarding his father's papers. Subject files also include correspondence with family members, as well as many letters to and from Jean Sadako Kim, Hawaii's first female and Asian American Lieutenant Governor. There is also a White House inauguration invitation and letter to George W. Bush. Interestingly, there are also a few items relating to 18th century American History, including a reprint of the Declaration of Independence and a poem reproduction on rag paper.

The remainder of the collection consists of oral family histories of David, Peter, and David’s sister Mary, biographical materials including awards, certificates, scrolls, and genealogical documents, and material relating to Hyun's Board of Directors involvement with the Korean American Museum.


  • Creation: 1774 - 2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1919 - 2003


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of the Korean Heritage Library. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Korean Heritage Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

Finding aid description and metadata are licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.


David Hyun, born on January 3, 1917 in Korea, was the youngest son of Reverend Soon and Maria Lee Hyun. His father was a Methodist minister and a key member in the Korean Independence movement of 1919. Soon Hyun's involvement in the movement caused his family to flee from Korea to Shanghai, where Soon helped organize the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. After five years in Shanghai the Hyun family settled in Kauai, Hawaii, where Soon was the Provisional Government's official representative in America.

David Hyun lived in Hawaii until 1947, when he moved to Los Angeles with his wife Mary and their children and began studying architecture at USC. David's activism as a union organizer, coupled with his criticism of American-backed dictator Syngman Rhee, gained him the label of "dangerous alien" from the United States government. Multiple attempts were made to deport Hyun and his family up through 1958, with organized resistance preventing the action each time.

During this struggle Hyun became the first Korean American architect, establishing his own firm (David Hyun Associates, Inc.) in 1953. He is best known for his 1978 design of the Japanese Village Plaza and the Yagura Fire Tower, as part of the revitalization of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles.

In addition to his work as an architect, Hyun considered himself an essayist. He has written a voluminous amount of words on his family (particularly his father), Korea, current events, and personal anecdotes in the form of short stories, diaries, and autobiographies. Hyun took creative writing and fiction classes at UCLA in the 1970s, was a UCLA research Fellow, and served on the Korean American Museum Board of Directors.

Hyun, along with his brother Peter, dedicated a large part of his life to documenting and sharing the history of his father and family's involvement in the Korean Independence movement, which is readily apparent throughout this collection.

David Hyun died on May 2, 2012 at the age 95, preceded by his wife Mary in 2011. At the time of his death Hyun was survived by his sister, Mary Hyun Lindauer, his two sons David and Than, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.


27.85 Linear Feet (27 boxes, 1 map-case)

Language of Materials



David Hyun, son of Reverend Soon Hyun, was the first ever-Korean American architect and a self-described essayist. He is best known for his 1978 design of the Japanese Village Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, as part of a revitalization of Little Tokyo, and his dedication to documenting his father's work in the Korean Independence movement of 1919. His papers consist primarily of writings (by both himself and others), photographs, and architectural drawings and renderings. They also contain subject files, materials related to both Reverend Soon Hyun and the Korean American Museum, biographical materials and oral histories, articles and clippings, and architectural portfolios.


The David Hyun papers have been organized into the following series: 1. Biographical materials and oral histories; 2. Subject files; 3. Writings by David Hyun; 4. Writings by others; 5. Reverend Soon Hyun related materials; 6. Architectural project portfolios and renderings; 7. Articles and clippings; 8. Korean American Museum; 9. Photographs and paintings.

Hyun's original order was only discernable within the subject files and writings portion of the collection, which were arranged (for the most part) alphabetically and chronologically, respectively. These arrangements were kept intact; the remainder of the series' have been organized chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the estate of David Hyun.

Related Archival Materials

Related materials on both David and Reverend Soon Hyun can be found in USC's Korean American Digital Archive, within the following collections: Soon Hyun collection, Private records, and Oral histories.

Processing Information

Materials were placed in boxes when picked up from Hyun's home, in no particular order. Like materials appear to have been kept together by the creator. Subject files were found in alphabetical order and some of Hyun's writings were found in chronological order, in binders. These two arrangements were kept intact, as was physical order for the most part. Writings were removed from binders, but kept in their chronological grouping. Where needed folders of the same content were combined and duplicates were discarded. The remainder of the series have had intellectual order imposed on them, and are organized chronologically.

In July 2022, Boxes 1-3 were replaced, which necessitated expanding the boxes as Box 1a (Folders 1-41), Box 1b (Folders 42-53), Box 2a (Folders 1-48), Box 2b (Folders 49-53), Box 3a (Folders 1-26), Box 3b (Items 1-9).

Finding aid for the David Hyun papers
Minimally Processed
Sarah Cassone
2018 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 July: Finding aid updated and materials added for Box 23 by Marissa Chavez for History Associates Incorporated.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries East Asian Library Repository

Doheny Memorial Library
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-1825 United States