The Korean American National Museum (KANM) was founded in 1991 to plan and operate the nation’s first and only institution devoted to preserving, studying, and presenting the Korean American community’s cultural heritage. KANM’s board decided at that time that this institution would be located in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, a community west of downtown Los Angeles that is home to more Korean Americans than any other part of the country.
In 1993, KANM began developing and presenting its cultural programming, and in February 1995, KANM opened as the Korean American National Museum in a temporary site in the heart of LA’s Koreatown, featuring exhibitions on various aspects of Korean and Korean American history and culture, as well as a wide variety of lectures, readings, discussions and screenings.
As a means of promoting 2004’s centennial anniversary of Korean immigration to the United States, KANM produced two exhibitions:  L.A. Koreatown:  A Celebration of Continuity and Change, which documented Korean American immigration to Los Angeles; and Dreams and Reality:  Celebrating 100 Years of Korean Immigration to the U.S., which brought together works by some of today’s most renowned and successful Korean and Korean American artists. 

In 2005, KANM presented Scene ’05, offering a different type of art exhibit that featured works by Korean American artists currently living in Los Angeles. In 2006, KANM presented L.A. Koreatown: Here and Now as its first exhibit to depict the complex, multi-faceted Koreatown community today through photographs by both professional and amateur photographers. In conjunction with the exhibit, KANM worked with several Koreatown galleries to present satellite exhibits of works by contemporary Korean American artists. Most recently in 2012, the City of Los Angeles granted the Museum a long-term lease on a site in Koreatown for the construction of the KANM’s permanent facility.