Trump election win could swiftly change US policy toward N. Korea, says KAPAC president

Posted on : 2024-03-11 18:06 KST Modified on : 2024-03-11 18:06 KST
The Korean American Public Action Committee is behind the push to enact the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act (HR 1369), a bill that would declare a formal end to the Korean War
Casey Kwangchol Choi, the executive president of the Korean American Public Action Committee, met with the Hankyoreh in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun neighborhood on Feb. 29, 2024. (Lee Je-hun/The Hankyoreh)
Casey Kwangchol Choi, the executive president of the Korean American Public Action Committee, met with the Hankyoreh in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun neighborhood on Feb. 29, 2024. (Lee Je-hun/The Hankyoreh)

A renewed push to pass a bill to end the Korean War in the US Congress is gaining momentum, with support from Republicans signaling the possibility of a swift change in US policy toward Korea were Donald Trump to return to the White House, the executive president of the Korean American Public Action Committee says. 

“The fact that Anna Paulina Luna, the representative from Florida, a young, hardcore supporter of former President Donald Trump, sponsored the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act (HR 1369) is very significant, as it signals the possibility of rapid change in the US’ North Korea policy and possible support from the Republican Party if Trump is once again elected as president of the US in November,” said Casey Kwangchul Choi, who runs the committee known as KAPAC, explaining the significance of the most recent push to pass a bill to end the Korean War. 
The bill seeks to declare the formal end of the Korean War and to establish a peace agreement. It also is aimed at creating a blueprint for permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, establishing a US-North Korea liaison office, and enabling Korean Americans with relatives in North Korea to see their families.
The bill was first introduced in the 117th Congress (2021-2023) but was automatically dropped with the termination of the session. It was reintroduced in the 118th Congress (2023-2025) on March 1, 2023.
The Democratic Party’s Rep. Brad Sherman of California, who has served in the House of Representatives for more than a quarter of a century, introduced the bill both times.
KAPAC is an organization of Korean American voters who share two main values — political empowerment of the Korean American community and peace on the Korean Peninsula — and strive to bring those values to fruition.
Choi explained the significance of the push for the passing of the bill that would become the “Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act” as such: “Most people in the US Congress, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, are neocons when it comes to North Korea. Many believe that North Korea is a rogue state in desperate need of sanctions rather than dialogue. The Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act is shaking up such presuppositions.”
This is no exaggeration on the part of those who have pushed to enact this legislation. The momentum that the legislation has picked up to this point is also evidence.
The bill started out as a non-binding resolution. In the 116th Congress (2019-2021), 52 members of the House of Representatives, all of them Democrats, signed the resolution calling for a formal end to the Korean War (HRES 152).
In the 117th Congress, 46 members of Congress signed onto the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act (HR 3446). Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, was the only Republican to sign on.
The Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act (HR 1369), which was newly introduced in the 118th Congress, which began on Jan. 3, 2023, has picked up 39 cosponsors in less than a year so far, two of them Republicans.
In short, the bill is gaining strength by developing from a “resolution” to a “bill,” and by winning support from not only Democrats, but from Republicans, too.
Choi repeatedly emphasized that the bill is “a bipartisan issue that affects the lives of future generations.”
However, many in the US Congress, government, and experts still believe in more hard-line approaches to North Korea.
“The other day, there was a hearing held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and a number of witnesses were calling for more sanctions on North Korea. To that, Rep. Sherman said, ‘I’ve been sanctioning North Korea for the past 26 years, and that hasn’t solved any problems. The items described in the bill, such as the declaration of the formal end of war and the establishment of a peace agreement are deals that should be made with enemies, not friends,’” explained Choi.
Sherman’s shift from an initially neo-conservative view of North Korea to a view that claims that the US should talk with the enemy arose due to continuous meetings and conversations with Choi.
This is the achievement of KAPAC, which started in 2007 with 11 members, including Choi, and has since grown to have more than 1,000 members. The organization has grown to be so influential that 300 to 400 members participate in the Korea Peace Forum held in Washington every two years, and US federal lawmakers attend and give speeches in the double digits.
“Nothing gets done in the US unless you ask. It’s like that even with scholarships — you need to ask for them. The US values leadership, and starting conversations is a way of proving your leadership skills. Lawmakers always need concrete reasons to act, and when you knock on their doors, strike up conversations, and ask for help, that’s good enough for them,” Choi stated. He declined to mention how many heartbreaks and challenges he had to face during the process.
Choi reiterated the need for South Korea to gain a proper understanding of the US and approach the country accordingly, which includes preparing for the possible return of Donald Trump as president, saying, “The US values its national interests more than anything. Look at how it formed key alliances with the UK and Japan, countries they fought against in bitter wars, and its special relationship with Vietnam.”
He continued, “Moreover, Trump uses the logic of capitalism, of money, to judge everything. Remember when he demanded that countries pay more money if they wanted to conduct military exercises with the US?”
Such statements seem to be directly pointed at the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, which touts values-based diplomacy and values-oriented alliances as its supreme guiding policies.

“In terms of values, the US values human rights, freedom of expression, and so on. Since the inauguration of the Yoon administration, there has been a lot of concern in the US Congress about the increasing number of raids and lawsuits against journalists and media representatives in South Korea. It’s hard to brush off the possibility of a hearing being held in the US Congress about the Yoon administration’s media-suppressing policies,” Choi added.
Choi arrived in South Korea on Feb. 25 to meet with a wide range of people in preparation for the 2024 Korea Peace Conference, which will be held in Washington, DC, on May 22-24.
Earlier this month, he visited former President Moon Jae-in’s bookstore, Pyeongsan Books, in Yangsan South Gyeongsang Province, and met the former president.
“Former President Moon agreed to send a congratulatory message via video to the Korea Peace Conference," Choi said. Choi returned to the US on Saturday.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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