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Irvin Paik papers

 Collection — Box: 1-2
Identifier: 3035

Scope and Content

This collection documents a period of Irvin Paik's life, roughly 1970-1974, during which he was active in the campaign to improve opportunities for Asian Americans in the movie, television and theater business, on the one hand, and to push for more accurate and rounded characterizations of Asians in the media. Contents include correspondence, article typescripts, subject files, scripts, photographs, news clippings, slides, and audiotapes.


  • 1971 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

Check USC Digital Archive for online availability. Advance notice required for access to original items.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head, East Asian Library. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the East Asian 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.

Historical background

There was a broad-based effort during the 1960s-1970s to build the foundations of a multi-ethnic society in which mutual respect between people of differing cultural backgrounds could meet on a level field and thereby be accorded more equal access to opportunities of all sorts. In this effort, the importance of the images put forward of Asians and Asian Americans in the mainstream media was recognized and found to be characterized by stereotypical appearances, demeanors, accents and social roles.

The East-West Players, "the nation's premier Asian American theatre," was founded in 1965 in order to provide opportunities for Asian American actors to break out of the stereotypes so common to that point. Their first performances were presented in the basement of a church at the corner of Lucille Avenue and Griffith Park Blvd., in Los Angeles, from which they moved in 1973 to a 99-seat theater on Santa Monica Blvd. In 1998, the company moved to its current housing, in the David Henry Hwang Theater, in Little Tokyo.

Early in 1970, a group of Asian Americans intent on mobilizing for greater opportunities in the stage, movie and television industry, met to organize themselves. At their first meeting, they adopted the name "Ethnic," but voted to change to the "Brotherhood of Artists." The organization appears to have lasted only until late 1972.

The Chinese Media Committee is an affiliated organization of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), a group founded in San Francisco in 1969 for the purpose of advocating for improved job opportunities for Chinese Americans.

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), founded in 1929, is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. It is a national organization whose ongoing mission is to secure and maintain the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and bigotry.

Asian Americans for Fair Media, Inc. (AAFM) was founded in 1973 by a group of Nisei, led by George Yuzawa, to monitor local and national broadcasts and print media for negative Asian stereotypes and racial slurs.

Biographical note

Irvin Paik was born in Bakersfield in 1940, the youngest of six children--and the only son--of Meung Sun Paik and Rose Park, both of whom came from large immigrant families. The Paiks and Parks were both farming families, in Oregon, Idaho, Utah and California. Irvin was born as his parents were in the process of moving to Los Angeles, which by then had the largest concentration of Koreans in North America. Growing up in postwar Los Angeles, in the midst of a close community and with almost twenty uncles and aunts and dozens of cousins, Irvin had open to him a greater range of opportunities than had most Koreans prior to World War II. In high school, he became interested in drama and photography, and continued to pursue those interests at UCLA. In his effort to foster an acting career, Paik confronted the problems of Asian stereotypes and limited opportunities for Asian American actors. He joined several organizations (East West Players, Brotherhood of Artists, Japanese American Citizens League, etc.) and became an active advocate, as reflected in this collection.

He enlisted in the Army to avoid the draft and enrolled in a unit of college graduates resulting in a 2nd Lieutenant commission in the artillery. Paik was assigned to the Field Photographic Unit of the Army Pictorial Center, where he was able to develop technical skills that he later used to gain entry into the Producer Training Plan, which was established to provide more equal access to men and women of diverse backgrounds by training them for careers in the motion picture and television industry. This led to a successful career as a film editor, in movies and, more particularly, television.

Aside from his early activism and career as a film editor, Paik has been an active member of the Korean American Pioneer Council (KAPC), originally formed as a support group for the Korean American Museum, in Los Angeles, but with the specific mission to gather and preserve the history of the First Wave of Koreans in America. He has been most prominently involved in the KAPC's oral history program, for which he has served as cameraman and, very often, as interviewer. Irvin himself was interviewed for that series in 2012, during the course of which the existence of this collection came to light.


3 Linear Feet (3 bankers boxes)

Language of Materials



The Irvin Paik papers include correspondence, article typescripts, subject files, scripts, photographs, news clippings, slides, and audiotapes created by television and film editor Irvin Paik during a period (early 1970s) when he was actively involved in several organizations (East-West Players, Brotherhood of Artists, Japanese American Citizens League, Asian Americans for Fair Media) centered around the effort to more fairly and accurately represent Asians in the media, to expand the opportunities open to them in the movie and television industries. Paik also conducted research for several related projects.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Irvin Paik, 2012.

Finding aid for the Irvin Paik papers
Ken Klein
2013 April
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries East Asian Library Repository

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