Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Fred Korematsu - Kathryn Korematsu Interview
Narrators: Fred Korematsu, Kathryn Korematsu
Interviewers: Lorraine Bannai (primary); Tetsuden Kashima (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 14, 1996
Densho ID: denshovh-kfred_g-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TK: When did you start having children?

KK: About a year after we arrived in California.

TK: So Karen was there, probably?

KK: Born in 1950. In the fall of '50 we had arrived in October of '50, of 1949, and she was born in September of 1950.

TK: When was it that Karen -- and your other son, is it Ken?

KK: Ken.

TK: When did they first hear about the Korematsu case?

KK: Well, Karen, there was a girl in her class, Maya Okada, who Karen had gone to school with from first grade, and this was high school, and she was a junior, I believe, in high school. This was a social studies class. And she had, Maya had given a book report on a little book called Concentration Camps, USA, written by a Caucasian. It was very small, very small paperback book, and in it, it had Fred's name, but not very much about him, it was just about the, mentioned the case, I think. And she mentioned Fred Korematsu, and I think Karen was shocked, probably. I don't even, I need to ask Maya if she really knew that was Karen's dad, 'cause she could have thought that was another Korematsu. And Karen came home and said, told me about this book report, and they mentioned Fred Korematsu. And I said, "Well, that's your dad," and she says, "What's this all about?" And I told her as best I could, and I said, "When your dad comes home, you can, you can talk to him." And now, our son says he doesn't remember learning about it at the time. He was four years younger, and so he was still in junior high. And he said that he learned about it in school. I don't remember that in particular, but that's what he says he remembers.

And so we weren't any different than a lot of Japanese American families where both the mother and the father were Japanese American, because they didn't talk about it, either. People ask me, "Why didn't they talk about it?" Well, after knowing a lot of Nisei and Issei, although I couldn't communicate with them, not only I thought, I think that they were frightened about the whole matter, in the beginning, at least, I think they were hurt. I don't see them as being bitter. I know that people have told me that this person's bitter and that person's bitter, and Fred's asked that question. And bitter, to me, means people who are just angry, angry, angry, and I don't see them that way. Fred has never been that angry, you know, the angry young man or anything. It's a matter of being, not understanding why, and that was Fred. He didn't understand why he lost, because he says in spite of the girlfriend and all that, he, he learned about the Constitution in school, and he thought he was equal, and he thought it was unconstitutional, and Mr. Besig thought it was unconstitutional. And so I don't know if the Nisei thought in those terms, but they knew, I'm sure they knew that something was wrong, that it shouldn't happen. And I think that they were just mystified and really hurt. And I think the Issei were frightened out of their skins, really. And the Nisei had to, had to be protective of their parents. Fred having three other brothers, was freer than a lot of the Nisei. And a lot of them wish now that they had, they could have refused. But who would have helped them? Fred was just fortunate.

We asked Mr. Besig... we went to see him before Fred accepted this Earl Warren's Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU, and we asked him. There again, he, Fred said, "What shall I say to them about you?" And he said, "You can tell them I thought it was unconstitutional then, and I still think it's unconstitutional." Mr. Besig read, said he read about Fred in the newspaper, that's how he knew about it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.