Tag Archives: politics


Nearly 9 out of 10 South Koreans Don’t Trust Their Government


Persistent political wrangling between the two opposing parties has left the South Koreans questioning their government more than ever before, according to a survey released Friday.

A poll conducted by Gallup Korea showed that 89 percent of its 1,011 respondents said South Korean lawmakers are not performing their duties properly. The figure is a significant bump up from a similar poll conducted in June when the disapproval rate was at 65 percent. It is conceived that the excessively long standoff between the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposing New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) before finally passing the bills to investigate the cause of the ferry tragedy has contributed to the people’s distrust.

“This is the highest rate of disapproval we’ve seen,” Gallup Korea reportedly told Gobal News. “These results show that the support base for South Korean politics is frigid.”

Of those who expressed their discontent, 20 percent said that the political standoff and lack of communication make it difficult for them to support the government’s lawmaking body. While 14 percent cited nepotism among lawmakers, 10 percent said their inability to handle bills is the main reason for not trusting the government.

But perhaps the most telling aspect is that, even as 61 percent of the survey’s respondents said they disapprove of the Saenuri Party (an increase from 43 percent in June), a staggering 80 percent still said they don’t support the opposing NPAD. The Saenuri Party, represented by President Park Geun-hye, still garnered an approval rating of 45 percent, followed by 28 percent who responded that they don’t support a specific political party. The NPAD’s rate of approval was only at 20 percent.

Photo courtesy of Crnxue.com

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Asian American Voters: The Nation’s Fastest Growing Political Force


According to a survey conducted by AAPI Data, Asian Americans voters are planning to turn out for the upcoming November midterms, and since most of them do not affiliate with a political party, they are now being seen as a promising political force.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and Asian Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) recently released the results of the survey, which polled 1,300 Asian American registered voters nationwide, and found that at least 60 percent of registered Asian American voters are planning to vote in the upcoming 2014 midterms.

Compared to the 37 percent of Asian American voters who are Democrat and 17 percent who are Republican, 46 percent were identified to be unaffiliated with a political party, making Asian Americans votes a prime target audience for future political candidates.

“Asian Americans should no longer be an afterthought in our political process,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of AAJC.

“It is clear that Asian Americans will have a say in shaping future elections and the future direction of our country. Candidates from both sides of the aisle should be making inroads with this community, and yet, most Asian Americans have yet-to-be contacted by either political party.”

Considering the survey’s results as well as the rapid growth of Asian American population in the South and Midwest, it’s gradually becoming clear that there are enough Asian American votes to close the gap in some of the upcoming House races. Thus, many API community-based organizations across the country are launching campaigns to outreach to voters of Asian descent and advocate for policies to make the voting process easier for first-time voters with limited English proficiency.

Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, for example, is opening a 14-language phone bank this week as a part of the “Your Vote Matters” 2014 campaign and plans to use hundreds of bilingual volunteers to make phone calls providing electoral information in multiple Asian languages including Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi, Japaneese, Korean, Mandarin, and more.

In addition, the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center‘s (AALAC) has been running a campaign since July with the goal of reaching out to 10,000 Korean American voters in Gwinnett County, which has the highest concentration of Korean Americans in the state of Georgia.

“The Asian American electorate is growing rapidly and is already a significant presence in many states and Congressional districts,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, director of AAPI Data and lead researcher on the survey. “In-language polling of Asian Americans is now getting to be critical, in order for us to have a more accurate picture of what voters care about, and how they will vote.”

Below is an infographic of the survey’s findings:


eeoc jenny yang pic

President Obama Appoints Jenny R. Yang EEOC Chair


Jenny R. Yang was sworn in today as the Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), making her the first Asian American chair of the EEOC. Yang, whose term expires July 1, 2017, was nominated by President Obama and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 2013.

“It is an honor and privilege to have been named by President Obama to serve as Chair of the EEOC,” Chair Yang said. “Our outgoing Chair, Jacqueline Berrien, has left an extraordinary legacy. I look forward to building upon that foundation with my fellow Commissioners, our General Counsel, and all of our dedicated and talented staff.”

Yang previously served as Vice Chair of the EEOC since April 2014 and led a comprehensive review of the agency’s program, which addresses issues regarding alleged discrimination that have broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic region. She also represented EEOC on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“Fifty years ago, this nation made a fundamental promise to its people to assure equality of opportunity at work,” Chair Yang said. “Congress created the EEOC to make good on this promise — to lead the nation in enforcing our anti-discrimination laws and to champion equal employment opportunity in workplaces across America.  It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility to serve this remarkable agency in fulfilling this promise to our nation.”

Yang is a longtime, experienced civil rights and employment lawyer. Prior to joining the EEOC, Yang was a partner at Cohen Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC, where she represented thousands of employees across the country in numerous complex civil rights and employment actions. She also served as chair of the firm’s hiring and diversity committee. From 1998 to 2003, Yang was a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section, where she enforced federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment by state and local government employers.

Yang received her B.A. from Cornell University in government and her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a note and comment editor of the law review and Root-Tilden Public Interest Scholar. She and her husband, Kil Huh, director of the States’ Fiscal Health Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, have two sons.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about Chair Yang and the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

Photo via SDCBA.

Sunha Paul Kim

Student Spotlight: Harvard University’s Sunha Paul Kim

Give a little description of your background (where did you grow up, etc.).
I was born and raised in the South Bay area of L.A., but I have also lived in Ohio and New England. I am grateful to have lived in all three places because I have gained greater insight with regards to my cultural identity. It really wasn’t until I moved to Ohio that I realized I was, as a Korean American, different from the majority of this country. Even though I spent most of my life in California, I like to say that I really grew up in Ohio, because I definitely experienced a profound cultural awakening which enabled me to gain a truer sense of what it means to be an American in Ohio.

Are there any organizations/clubs you are involved in? Tell us about what you’re up to!
I helped establish a Harvard based religious grassroots movement and Super PAC called Stand For Democracy that is currently aiming to repeal gambling laws in Massachusetts. Repealing gambling laws is important for me because gambling is such a large problem for Korean Americans and Asian Americans in general. It is also something that has directly affected my family and I am sure that my family is not the only one. Also, a win in November’s election would mark the first time in American history that a state has ever overturned gambling laws. Repealing gambling laws in Massachusetts would be a watershed moment in American history.

Our organization has been responsible for getting the Muslims, Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews to work together all throughout Massachusetts in order to overturn this state’s gambling laws. We have also assembled a team of world class advisors from Harvard’s faculty (including the professor who created President Obama’s successful grassroots campaign in 2008) who are helping us grow this movement. Currently, we are working on raising close to $2 Million from all over the country to take on the casino industry this November. You can check out our website at StandForDemocracy.com and even donate a few dollars to support our cause.

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What was the hardest thing you’ve done so far?
Helping to start a grassroots movement to fight a $50,000,000 political machine funded by multiple casino corporations is by far the hardest thing I have done and am currently working on. It’s a David vs. Goliath struggle, but with the right tools, David sometimes wins.

What’s the best thing about your school?
Having incredible role models. There aren’t too many schools where one can have dinner with the former President of Mexico, work with gubernatorial candidates, and take classes with million book selling authors and one of the European Union’s top economic advisors. Of course, this is a double-edged sword because it this is how some people lose touch with reality.

What song is representative of your life right now?
“Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley.

I think Bob Marley is too often written off for having merely written stoner hymns. While there is nothing wrong with this perception, people too often miss the powerful and profound message of Marley’s work.

Your go-to food place:
When in LA: Kogi. I am a huge fan of chef Roy Choi because he simply makes a damn good taco. I also believe that Chef Roy has created a new type of food: Korean American Food. My advisor at Harvard, Professor David Carrasco, teaches about the cultural exchanges that particularly take place in large cities. Whether Chef Roy knows it or not, Kogi’s food signifies a Korean-Mexican cultural exchange that has given rise to a new Korean-American-Mexican culture that could only have originated in Los Angeles. I write a lot about Roy Choi’s work in my classes and I know he’d be welcome anytime to speak at Harvard.

When in Boston: Bon Me. I love food trucks. There is a food truck that parks in front of Harvard Yard almost every day and sells Miso Braised Pulled Pork foot long sandwiches for $6. Bon Me takes cultural exchange to another level. Think about it. Vietnamese sandwiches (Bon Me) were first created in Vietnam during French colonial times. So here we at least have Vietnamese, French, Japanese (Miso), and American (good old pulled pork) culinary influences coming into play with one sandwich. It’s pure magic.

Is there anywhere in the world where you’d want to study abroad? Where is it, and why?
Supporting Manchester City Football Club has given me a window into the socio-political dynamics of everyday life in Manchester, England. City fans are generally hard working blue collar people who have historically supported an awful soccer team for many fascinating reasons. Most of Manchester supports City even though Manchester United is obviously the bigger global club. Imagine if Los Angeles, in the midst of the Shaq-Kobe dynasty, was mostly Clipper fans. I admire City fans for their loyalty to Manchester City and it would be incredible to have a chance to live and study in Manchester and to learn more about the incredibly interesting people there. It would also go a long way towards getting people to stop calling me a glory hunting wanker.


What does your typical night out consist of?
I don’t get many of these, so it’s important to take the most out of a night out. A typical night out is all about going out to Boston, going to the clubs, and taking trip to rage city. I never drink cheap alcohol and you shouldn’t either. It might certainly mean drinking less often but that’s the smart thing to do anyways.

What was the last book you read…for fun?
The Martyred by Richard E. Kim.

My grandfather died earlier this year and I never spoke to him about how he fought in the Korean War or how he moved his family across an ocean to re-start life. Richard E. Kim and my grandfather are similar in very specific ways. Kim was born in 1932 and my grandfather was born in 1931, which means they were 21 and 22 when the Korean War broke out. This means that out of all the Korean soldiers that fought in the Korean War, Kim and my grandfather were only one of a relative few that actually dropped out of university and sacrificed their education to fight in a war. Of course, afterwards both Kim and my grandfather came to America. I viewed Kim’s book as perhaps the only window I had to look into what Korean Americans of my grandfather’s generation were thinking about the Korean War. That’s why this book was, for me, a wonderful read.

What has been your favorite memory so far?
Organizing and witnessing Muslims, Jews, and Christians pray together in public for greater good has been my most moving and favorite memory so far.


If you would like to participate in KoreAm U’s Student Spotlight feature, you can find more information here. Alumni, we have something for you too!

Rexon Ryu-FP 2008

Rexon Ryu Named Defense Secretary Hagel’s New Chief of Staff

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has tapped Rexon Ryu to be his next chief of staff, replacing the outgoing Mark Lippert who was appointed U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Foreign Policy has reported.

Ryu formerly worked as a foreign policy adviser to Hagel when the latter served as a U.S. senator, and observers say it’s not surprising he was named to be the Defense Secretary’s right-hand man. He is said to mesh well with Hagel’s leadership style, according to John Lettieri, who was formerly Ryu’s Senate deputy, the FP article said. “He’s one of the few people who can hit the ground running in this position,” Lettieri told the publication.

In a statement to FP, Hagel said Ryu “is a proven talent when it comes to working with the interagency, Congress, and outside groups and he will be a tremendous asset to the Defense Department. [I] have long relied on [Ryu’s] counsel and wise perspective on national security matters.”

Ryu leaves his position as a deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and is reportedly already starting his transition to the new Pentagon post this week. Waiting for him will be a sizable list of pressing security issues, including ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), Ukraine and Syria, according to the Foreign Policy article.

The Korean American has had plenty of experience in foreign policy and national security issues. Ryu formerly served as a special assistant to former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and the Washington Post called him a “confidant” to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. As a former assistant to National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Ryu one one of a handful of directors who worked on nonproliferation issues at the National Security Council, with a specific focus on Iran and Syria.

When he was on Hagel’s Senate staff, the then-Nebraska lawmaker credited Ryu with having “a good global assessment of reality and policy … and can talk simply, straightly, directly.”

Top photo: Rexon Ryu (left), from a 2008 picture. Photo via Foreign Policy.

Roy Cho

Election Roundup: Korean American Candidates Roy Cho and Young Kim Score Victories


A dozen Korean Americans were on Tuesday’s primary ballots, but only a handful emerged victorious from their respective races. Among the big winners were Democrat and first-time congressional candidate Roy Cho of New Jersey, who won an impressive 90 percent of the vote and will move on to the general election for the state’s 5th Congressional District; and California’s Republican State Assembly candidate Young Kim who will also advance to the November election.

More than half of the Korean Americans candidates were running for seats in California.

Here’s the roundup of how the candidates performed at the June 2 primaries.


Republican State Assembly candidate Young Kim is now a step closer to “kicking butt” as she famously declared last year, after garnering 54.7 percent of the vote to incumbent Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva’s 45.3. The historically conservative 65th District went to Quirk-Silva in 2012, which allowed the Democrats to gain the supermajority in the State Assembly.

In the 24th District of the State Senate, Peter Choi is headed to the general elections with fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon, after collecting 20.3 percent of the vote and finishing in the top two. Sam Kang (6.4%) also lost in his bid (31.1%) for a seat in the 15th District in the California Assembly, as did Mary Chung Hayashi (21%) in her 10th State Senate District race.

Meanwhile, Michelle Park Steel (46.6%) advanced to the general elections for the 2nd District seat for the Orange County Board of Supervisors seat. Carol Kim (31.05%) came in at second in the 6th District seat for the San Diego City Council and will face Chris Cate in the general election in November.

James Na was on the ballot even though he withdrew from the race for the 4th District seat on the San Bernadino County Board of Supervisors last February and still received 9.34 percent of the votes.

Three Korean Americans ran for Los Angeles County Superior Court judgeships this year. Prosecutor Ann H. Park ran unopposed and won her race. Criminal prosecutor Helen Kim (43.3 percent) lost to Alison M. Estrada (56.7 percent), while Songhai “Sunny” Armstead (47.65 percent) ran a closer race, but still lost to Teresa P. Magno (52.35 percent).

New Jersey

In the 5th District for Congress, Democrat Roy Cho of Hackensack garnered 90.4 percent of the vote which will send him to the general election in November, when he’ll face Republican Scott Garrett, the incumbent.


Rep. Rick Allen will face Democrat John J. Barrow in the general elections in November after Eugene Yu garnered only 16.5 percent of the vote.

(This story reflects corrections to the total number of candidates in the June 2 primaries. An earlier version stated the total number in all 2014 primaries, including those after June 2–that figure is 20. It also corrects the results for Peter Choi’s race.)

The original version of this story erroneously stated that Carol Kim lost to Chris Cate. We regret the error.


5 Facts to Know About SKorea’s Prime Minister Nominee

South Korean President Park Geun-hye nominated a new prime minister to replace Chung Hong-won, who recently resigned amid backlash following the poor handling of the ferry disaster.

Ahn Dai-hee, 59, a former prosector and Supreme Court justice who has been touted as reform-minded, was named to replace Chung, who will remain in the job until the parliamentary confirmation hearing for Ahn.

“I have lived all my life to eradicate irregularities and corruption … since I was a junior prosecutor,” Ahn said, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I take the nomination as an order to stamp out evils accumulated over decades and push for reform.”

Ahn must first pass next month’s confirmation hearing—a prospect that got shakier in the last few days, as opposition leaders criticized him for making about $1.5 million over six months last year as an attorney. The news prompted suspicions that he benefited from his status as a former Supreme Court justice.

“I think the nomination for prime minister should be reconsidered,” Rep. Kim Han-gil, a co-leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, told Yonhap on May 25.

Here is a list of five facts you should know about Ahn Dae-hee:

1. In 2003, then-prosecutor Ahn led a high-profile investigation of political parties that collected illegal funds ahead of the 2002 presidential election. The probe revealed that Grand National Party, the predecessor of the currently ruling Saenuri Party, had taken bribes from businesses to fund the campaign. The investigation earned Ahn the nickname, “the people’s prosecutor” and drew heavy criticism of the Grand National Party, which later reformed as the Saenuri Party.

2. His status as “the people’s prosecutor” prompted a legion of South Koreans to create an “Ahn Dae-hee fan club.” The fan club chairman Jeong Seong-keun, a farmer in Yeoju, said he created the group because he felt it was important to show support for “someone who works for the people.”

3. Ahn joined the party he once scrutinized as a prosecutor. He became head of the Saenuri Party’s political reform committee while it was struggling to regain public trust ahead of the president election in 2008, helping it return to power with the election of Lee Myung-bak. His role in reforming Saenuri Party once again helped Park Geun-hye become president last year.

4. Despite his qualifications, Ahn’s role will be limited as prime minister unless the president expands his role. Power is concentrated heavily on the president in South Korea, which analysts say leaves the prime minister with a more ceremonial role. During her presidential campaign, Park pledged to give the prime minster greater power, but former prime minister Chung Hong-won’s role proved no different than his predecessors. Will it be different this time around?

5. Ahn’s nomination hints at a Cabinet reshuffle in South Korea. Park plans to reorganize the Cabinet after Ahn takes office, according to her spokesman. Ministers criticized in connection with the ferry disaster and others who have been accused of corruption are expected to be replaced. South Korean presidents have traditionally revamped  the Cabinet to regain public trust and show they’ve acknowledged their mistakes. Park also sacked the spy chief Nam Jae-joon and the national security adviser Kim Jang-soo.


Asian Americans Shifted Most Strongly Toward Democrats Since 2000


Above photo: President Obama meets with Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) in May 2013 to discuss immigration reform.

Asian Americans have shifted most strongly toward the Democratic Party out of all racial or ethnic groups since 2000, according to a new report from Gallup released last Friday. Part of the reason may come from many Asian Americans affinity to President Obama, a fellow minority, but Gallup also attributes the shift to Asian Americans’ opposition to core tenets of the Republican Party.

The numbers from the past two presidential elections are a clear indicator of the shift. In 2008, 62 percent of Asian American voters backed Obama, and in 2012, 73 percent backed him for reelection, according to Edison Research exit poll data.

The two major issues the report identified as reasons for this political leaning: religion and immigration. A majority of Asians in the United States are non-Christian or not particularly religious, while the GOP has a core constituency of evangelical Christians.

The Republican Party’s resistance to changing immigration laws also may not sit well with the fastest growing immigrant group. Asians make up only 5 percent of the country’s population, but they recently surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the U.S.

Despite the growing numbers, polls that allow for deeper analysis of Asian American views are hard to come by because of the still relatively small population and language barriers. Gallup’s report included about 4,000 Asian Americans, and it did not conduct surveys in Asian languages—a fact that the research group acknowledged as a drawback to its data. Other research centers that do conduct surveys in Asian languages, however, have produced very similar results. A 2012 Pew Research Center report, which conducted its survey in seven Asian languages, found that 50 percent of Asian Americans identified with the Democratic Party, compared with 28 percent who identified with the Republican Party.

Photo via National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)