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North Korean-American given humanitarian award

Southern California Sister Cities president Frank Tripicchio (right) gives an award to Sam Han for his humanitarian work. (Southern California Sister Cities)
Southern California Sister Cities president Frank Tripicchio (right) gives an award to Sam Han for his humanitarian work. (Southern California Sister Cities)
A North Korean orphan turned American businessman has been awarded for helping children in his home country and across the globe.

Han Sang-man, who helps underprivileged children around the world, received the 2012 Humanitarian of the Year Award from The Southern California Chapter of Sister Cities International.

The award, given on Feb. 25, recognizes The Han-Schneider International Children’s Foundation’s work to help orphans in North Korea, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Han himself was an impoverished orphan in Korea following the Korean War until he was adopted at age 16 by American World War II veteran Arthur E. Schneider. Schneider was working for the military government in Korea following the Korean War when he overheard a 12-year-old Han being shooed away from a local hospital where he wanted to learn medicine to become a doctor. After speaking with Han for several hours, Schneider agreed to pay for the orphan’s education. In 1961, Schneider was given special approval to bring Han to the U.S. as his adopted son. Han became known as Sam after arriving in Minnesota with his new father.

Han went on to obtain a master’s degree in business administration at Stanford University and worked in Europe for DuPont before starting his own multimillion-dollar chemical company, consulting business and condo development in Los Angeles.

Although he had always hoped to honor his American father by helping other orphans, it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer, in 2002 that he became determined to fulfill his dream.

He founded The Han-Schneider International Children’s Foundation in 2007.

Though told he had just five years to live when his diagnosis was revealed, Han has outlived his prognosis and is still very active in his philanthropic pursuits. HSICF raised more than $34,000 in 2009, enough to send 144,000 meal packets to North Korea, and thousands of dollars worth of food and clothing. The charity founder even campaigned recently to have the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011 passed in the U.S. Congress to allow North Korean defector children to be legally adopted by American families.

Southern California Chapter of Sister Cities International gave Han the award for his work which it said “crosses all political, religious and racial boundaries, sometimes at great personal risk, while trying to secure the safety and well-being of the most unfortunate and vulnerable members of our society.”

Sister Cities International, founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, is a non-profit and non-governmental diplomacy network organization that aims to build global cooperation between the U.S. and international communities, with the Southern California Chapter being its largest branch.

By John Lee (jlee17@heraldcorp.com)
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