Fred Korematsu

Why Is Fred Korematsu Best Known For?

American activist Fred Korematsu (1919-2005) who strongly believed that the decision to send Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II was disobedience and racial discrimination. In 1944, he attempted to fight the directives in court, but his case was dismissed by the Supreme Court. His conviction wasn’t eventually overturned in 1983 until records were found in 1981 that showed the government had hide evidence.

Fred Korematsu
Photo: Aclunc/Celeblifegraphy

Early Years

Toyosaburo Korematsu was born on January 30, 1919, in Oakland, California. His parents, Kotsui Aoki and Kakusaburo Korematsu, were welders who had emigrated from Japan. Out of their four sons, he was the third. In school, Korematsu went by the moniker “Fred”.

Korematsu v. United States Summary

During World War II, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government issued Executive Order 9066, permitted the forcible removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans residing on the West Coast into internment camps.

In 1942, he disobeyed an order to report to an assembly center so that he might be transferred to an internment camp, choosing to go into hiding instead. In an effort to evade discovery, he had plastic surgery and assumed a false identity, but in May of that year, he was finally taken into custody.

Korematsu consented to take part even though he would be prosecuted on a federal level for defying the removal order. In December 1944, his lawsuit, Korematsu v. United States, made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Sadly, the Court decided 6-3 to sustain the internment’s legitimacy on the grounds of military necessity, ruling against him.

Decision And Activism

After his case was unsuccessful, Korematsu’s campaigning continued. He persisted in calling for an apology and financial reparations for the internment survivors. Korematsu campaigned for a law that resulted in an official apology and compensation for individuals who had been detained after his conviction was reversed in 1983. In 1998, President Bill Clinton also gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Wife And Children

In 1946, Korematsu wed Kathryn Pearson in Michigan. Three years later, they moved to California and had two children, Karen and Ken.


Fred Korematsu died at his daughter’s home of respiratory failure in Marin County, California, on March 30, 2005 at the age of 86. One of his final remarks was, “I’ll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really pray that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country.” He was put out of sight at the Mountain View Cemetery.

Legacy And Korematsu Day

Currently, his daughter Karen runs the Fred T. Korematsu Institute, which informs educational resources to teach future generations about Japanese American internment. Many states and communities now observe Fred Korematsu Day as a way of honoring his legacy.

Interesting Facts

  • Article Title: Fred Korematsu Biography
  • Full Name: Toyosaburo Korematsu
  • Birth Date: January 30, 1919
  • Birth Place: Oakland, California
  • Birth Year: 1919
  • Children: Karen Korematsu, Ken Korematsu
  • Spouse: Kathryn Pearson
  • Education: Castlemont High School
  • Awards: Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Parents: Kotsui Aoki, Kakusaburo Korematsu
  • Death Date: March 30, 2005
  • Death Year: 2005
  • Author: Editors

Famous Quotes By Fred Korematsu

  • I was very upset because I did not have a fair trial to prove my loyalty to this country.
  • If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.
  • It takes a lot of money to hire an attorney.