Conference in Washington reflects Korean-Americans growing political presence

Posted on : 2015-07-24 16:29 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Koreans-Americans mobilizing ahead of next year’s presidential elections, working for higher turnout at the ballot box
 July 21.
July 21.

The second annual Korean American Grassroots Conference was held successfully in Washington, DC, on July 21 and 22.

The event, which was first launched last year, is designed to rally Korean-Americans as a political force in the US. This year’s conference is expected to ratchet up political pressure from Korean-Americans ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

An agreement was reached at the conference to carry out a full-scale “8080 campaign” throughout the country with the aim of raising voter registration rates - a preliminary procedure for voting in US elections - to 80% from their current 40% and achieving an 80% voting rate among registered voters. The idea is that the country’s more than two million Korean-Americans can only hope to reflect their interests by showing their numbers at the ballot box.

The conference was attended by some 300 people from 18 states, including New York, New Jersey, Georgia, California, and Texas. The number marks an increase from last year’s event, which was attended by 250 people from 14 states.

Thirteen members of the US Senate and House of Representatives attended a dinner held on the evening of July 22 at a hotel near the Capitol in Washington D.C., signaling the already significant political influence Korean-Americans hold. A number of prominent politicians spoke at the dinner, including House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez, and Representatives Mike Honda and Charles Rangel.

In their speeches, the lawmakers addressed a wide range of issues, including comfort women, Dokdo, use of the name “East Sea” on maps, immigration law reforms, and reunions among separated North and South Korean family members. Royce in particular draw applause for remarks on the comfort women issue, which he said he hoped Japanese government officials would not continue to deny.

Attendees from South Korea included National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee chairperson Na Kyung-won, along with fellow Saenuri Party lawmakers Shim Yoon-joe and Bae Duk-kwang and New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker Oh Jae-sae.

Earlier in the day, Korean-Americans paid visits to the offices of Senate and House politicians in groups of ten, meeting with a total of twenty-four in one afternoon. During the meetings, they asked for the lawmakers’ cooperation on a number of issues affecting the US Korean-American community, including expansions in the number of professional visas.

The event was sponsored by the Korean American Association of Metropolitan Washington Area under President So Jung Lim and organized by the New York- and New Jersey-based Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE).

“The activities were much more organized this year than last, with preliminary preparatory meetings held in 15 states for this year‘s event,” said KACE steering committee chairperson Dongsuk Kim.

 

By Park Hyun, Washington correspondent

 

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