March 31, 2009 Vietnamese "Boat People" Are Subject of May 2 Symposium

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Reme Grefalda (202) 707-6096

In the years following the Vietnam War, more than 1 million refugees fled the war-ravaged countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Those who took to the ocean in small, overcrowded ships were dubbed the “boat people.” Many perished on the seas, some at the hands of pirates, while others took refuge in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia. By the late 1970s and 1980s, the United States, Canada and other nations accepted many of those who survived the refugee camps. The plight of these refugees is the subject of a symposium titled “Journey to Freedom: The Boat People Retrospective,” to be held at the Library of Congress from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturday, May 2, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The symposium, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Library’s Asian Division and the Asian Division Friends Society, with support from the Voice of Vietnamese Americans, Boat People S.O.S. Inc., the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans and individuals from the Vietnamese American communities in the Greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Pre-registration is required due to space limitation. Contact Remé Grefalda at, (202) 707-6096. Senator James Webb (D-Va.) will deliver the opening keynote address. Rep. Joseph Q. Cao (R- La.) will be the luncheon keynote speaker. Scholars, community leaders and former refugees will discuss the topic in four sessions: “Historical Background,” “Exodus,” “Rescue and Hospitality,” and “Remembering Who We Are and Where We Have Been.” Drawn from the Library’s collections, a display of literature on the Vietnamese boat people will be on view throughout the day in the Asian Division Reading Room, Room 150 of the Thomas Jefferson Building. In the reading room, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., several authors will sign their books on the subject, which will be available for purchase. Two short films, to be shown at 2 p.m., will depict the resettlement process: “Waiting Days at Morong, Bataan” and “The Hong Kong Resettlement Village.” Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized website at The Asian Division is the central repository for all types of Asian publications that are not broadly available at other locations in the United States. Initiated in 1869 with a gift of 10 works in 934 volumes offered to the United States by the Emperor of China, the Library’s Asian collection of more than 2 million items is the largest and most comprehensive outside of Asia. In 2007, the Asian Division began collaborating with cultural and educational institutions throughout the United States to build an Asian Pacific American (APA) collection in the Library of Congress. Currently, the APA Collection includes the Betty Lee Sung Collection, the Carlos Bulosan Archives, the Jade Snow Wong Collection, the James Miho Conceptual Diaries and the Royal Morales Collection. It also includes the Vietnamese American Archives, which houses archival refugee materials donated by Boat People S.O.S. Inc. and VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment), a U.S.-based-non-profit organization.


PR 09-058
ISSN 0731-3527