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Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Esther Park, YWCA
leader for more than
50 years, dies


By Harold Morse

Esther Park, a distinguished leader with the Young Women's Christian Association for more than a half century both here and in South Korea, died last Tuesday in Arcadia Retirement Residence. She was 98.

Born in Korea, she moved to Hawaii with her family when she was a year-old. Graduating from Mid-Pacific Institute and the University of Hawaii, she taught briefly at Hilo Junior High School, then served as a social worker on the Honolulu YWCA staff from 1929 to 1947.

Her education also included graduate work at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She received an honorary doctorate in humanities from Ewha Women's University in Seoul.

She went to Korea in 1947 as an American adviser for YWCA work there. Evacuated during the 1950-53 Korean War, she later went back to Korea to continue in YWCA work until 1980, when she returned to Honolulu to retire for a second time.

For three decades, Park taught Korean women how to read and sew and do such practical things as lay tile, hang wallpaper and perform other construction skills.

She set up schools, counseled young girls and was a strong advocate of women's rights, some as basic as the right to open a bank account.

She lobbied for unions for the thousands of young women working in South Korean factories. In the backwash of the Korean War, relief programs helped her feed milk porridge to 400 children a day. A widows' workshop was set up to teach women to knit and sew to support themselves.

She is survived by nieces and nephews.

Memorial services will be held at Arcadia Chapel, 1434 Punahou St., at 9 a.m. Friday. Aloha attire. In lieu of flowers, donations suggested to the National YWCA of Korea, 1-3 First St., Myung Dong Ika Chungku, Seoul, Korea.

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