[Herald Interview] Former lawmaker sees U.S. FTA ratification soon

The only Korean-American to have served in U.S. Congress expects the KORUS FTA to be ratified in the U.S. soon, possibly within the spring.

“I think it’s going to be ratified easily, perhaps by May,” Jay Kim told The Korea Herald last week. “There’s no problem here, (but) I’m concerned about Korea.”

Kim, born Kim Chang-jun in Seoul in 1939, emigrated to the U.S. in 1961, where he studied civil engineering and later founded JAYKIM Engineers, a firm that specializes in designing highways and water reclamation projects.

After serving as city councilman and then mayor of the Los Angeles suburb Diamond Bar, Kim was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1992 in California’s 41st Congressional district, a seat he held until 1999.

These days he remains active as a lecturer and writer, also serving as chairman of the Washington Korean-American Forum, an organization based in the U.S. capital that seeks to strengthen the traditional U.S.-South Korea alliance.

He has used all of these roles to promote the deal, first agreed upon in June 2007 and then amended in December 2010. Under the renegotiated deal, both countries are given five years to eliminate their tariffs on the other nation’s automobile imports, a move which won support from the Ford Motor Co. and United Autoworkers Union in the U.S., both of whom had opposed the deal in its original form.

Kim Chang-jun

However, the renegotiation was lambasted by opposition forces and activists in Korea, who felt their government had made too many concessions.

“I think the negotiation was a win-win situation,” Kim said. “Some people claim Korea gave up too much, but I don’t agree.”

Korea, however, did block additional liberalization of its beef markets, an issue that prompted widespread protests here in 2008 over fears of mad cow disease.

In the long term, resisting increased trade with the U.S. harms Korea’s economy, said Kim. Having spoken to opponents of the deal here, he said he has not received a satisfactory explanation for their opposition.

“I believe it’s anti-Americanism,” he said.

“I believe it’s going to pass (Korea’s National Assembly) but it’s going to be ugly,” he said. Given the confrontational, often violent behavior seen when dealing with contentious bills here, Kim said he would not be surprised if the process turns into a “physical fight” in Korea’s legislature.

In the U.S., conditions appear riper for the passage of the agreement than they did when it was signed nearly four years ago. At the time, U.S. President George W. Bush, a Republican whose administration had inked the deal, had been dealt a defeat in midterm Congressional elections the previous fall, handing control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to Democrats.

As the Democrats have traditionally been less friendly to free trade deals and had little desire to help Bush, the deal languished in the years that followed.

Now with Barack Obama, a Democrat, currently in the White House and control over the legislature divided, the KORUS FTA’s fortunes may have changed. The Republicans have recaptured the House, making Kim optimistic of its chances there.

“Republicans powerfully support open markets,” he said.

Though Democrats have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, the White House may exert pressure to ensure its passage, knowing that its opportunities for legislative victories have diminished due to Republican control over the House.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), the influential head of the Senate Finance Committee, was disappointed when the renegotiated agreement failed to open up Korea’s beef markets, and has indicated he will not support it.

Kim said that Baucus should support the bill in the hopes of it leading to more trade in the future, rather than opposing it in its entirety now.

“I think that’s very narrow-minded,” he said. “A couple of years from now you try and open it up again, you don’t try to kill the whole bill.”

The deal, if ratified, will be the biggest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada came into effect in 1994. It will also be their first with a major Asian economy.

It will be South Korea’s second-largest free trade agreement, behind only the agreement it signed with the European Union in the fall of 2009, which is also awaiting ratification.

By Rob York (rjamesyork@heraldm.com)


(18) Failure of 1996 Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention, held in San Diego, Calif., in August 1996, remains a painful memory for every Republican, including myself. We did not recognize the public sentiment at the time, and were wrapped up in a rash feeling of impending victory; as a result, we allowed another four years of a Democratic presidential administration.

The year marked the first time the Republican National Convention was held in San Diego, a beautiful city at the southern end of California. San Diego is located just off the Pacific Coast and near the Mexico border, and is famous for its warm weather, clean air, and nice beaches. At the time, the Democratic candidate was the incumbent President Bill Clinton who was battling through the scandals of his extramarital affairs.

The Republican Party, which had suffered in the wake of George H.W. Bush’s 1992 presidential election loss, was ready to get revenge by nominating Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole. We believed he was the best candidate to defeat Clinton, as he was a World War II veteran with no ethical defects famous for his marriage to Elizabeth Dole, a former secretary of labor and secretary of transportation. Vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp, a former football star, was also a bright star in the political world.

A lot more people had shown up for the San Diego Convention than the previous convention in Texas, and the whole city was in a festival mood. Every Republican believed that Clinton, politically and morally hurt by his various scandals, was no match for Dole. The convention began to feel less like a convention to nominate a presidential candidate and more like a celebration of Dole’s impending election.

Republicans could not imagine that Americans would reelect a shameful womanizer to be the leader of the free world; indeed, during the campaign more women came out and claimed to have had affairs with him. I was shocked when Clinton was reelected; I imagine the political columnists all over the world would have felt the same way.

Looking back, the reason for the Republican Party’s dismal failure was that it was too wrapped up in celebrating Dole as if he was already president, and that they had ignored the important task of giving a clear political message to the people. In contrast, Clinton appealed to voters with the same message that he used four years ago.

He asked voters if their financial situation had improved from the Bush administration, and whether they wanted to stick with him and continue to improve fiscally or go back to the difficult Bush era with the Republican Dole. The Republicans, meanwhile, continued to harp on the issue of morality, not understanding that the people can ignore immorality as long as the economy is strong.

Talking about San Diego reminds me of a once very popular Congressman from the area, Duke Cunningham. Even now, I can remember his strong physique and smiling face. He entered the House around the same time as I did. He is a Vietnam War hero who shot down a half dozen Viet Cong MiGs in combat. He was a close friend of mine, and his easygoing personality drew many friends around him. He had many roles in the San Diego Convention, including hosting a special dinner for Republican Congressmen from California.

He was most noted for having anchored his house boat on the Potomac River for when he was staying in Washington. However, at the moment this war hero is in prison, having been sentenced to eight years on March 3, 2006.

His crime was making $700,000 from selling his $900,000 house to a defense contractor for $1.6 million; as a member of the Defense Committee, this was considered a clear illegal conflict of interest. He was 64 years old when sentenced to prison. And he will be 72 when he is let out of prison. It is hard for me to believe that such a gentleman, a man loved by everybody, is in jail.

In the U.S., once a politician is sent to prison, it is the complete end of his political life. He cannot use the title of former Congressman, cannot receive a pension from the government, and above all, cannot run for public office again. He really becomes a politically dead person. Since wrongdoing results in such harsh consequences, it is almost impossible to buy a U.S. Congressman. Unfortunately, in Korea some politicians, especially opposition figures, had spent time as part of political oppression. But they soon saw civil rights restored and ran for office and won again.

During the 1996 Republican National Convention, I was the U.S.-side leader of the friendship committee for the members of the Korean National Assembly and U.S. Congress, and Assemblyman Oh Sae-ung was the leader of the Korean side. Since a current Congressman is treated like a delegate, I could enter the convention center whenever I pleased.

I shook hands and ate with the California delegates there. Unfortunately, other non-delegate guests are not allowed inside, and must watch the convention outside of the main floor. Foreign guests can only move around the outside and talk with whatever people they know that they happen to come across.

I met with the Korean assemblymen on the first day of the convention, and asked them why they came this far for an event that they could not enter to see what was going on. They answered that in Korea, getting an invitation for the Republican National Convention was big, and attending it carried even more weight. They also said that Korean newspapers would feature the story after their return, strengthening their position in the National Assembly.

When asked what they’d do for the next three days, they told me there was nothing to worry about, since they had full schedules of panel discussions with various Korean-American groups and speeches for various Korean-American institutions. To them, it was an exciting experience, since there is no such thing as a national party convention to nominate a presidential candidate.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. Congressman. He serves as chairman of the Washington Korean-American Forum. For more information visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).

Hankyung 2/7


Jay Kim had an interview with Senator Scott Brown for the Korea Economic Daily where Kim is a consultant. Scott Brown is a Senator from Massachusetts, who won in a dramatic fashion the special election held in January last year to replace the late Ted Kennedy in the Senate. His win was the first Republican win in the district since 1972 and it also gave the power to filibuster to the Senate Republicans. He is in the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He is also mentioned as a next presidential candidate. This was the first time that he had an interview with Korean press.

About the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Brown expressed that he wants North Korea to give up the nuclear weapons program and participate in the international community, which he thinks is better for the interests of North Korea. About the role of China and the possibility of the increase of U.S. military force in South Korea to press China on the North Korea issue, he said that the level of U.S. force in South Korea is a matter to be decided by the allied nations, that the U.S. should continue to talk to China about the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program to the stability of the region, that the recent situations in Egypt and Middle East would be a lesson for North Korea and China, and that he wants China to exercise more influence on North Korea to participate in the international community.

About the Korea-U.S. FTA, Brown said he will do his best for its ratification once the bill comes to the Senate. About his moderate position to work with Democrats, he said his priority is to solve the problems and make progress for America and he is always willing to find a common ground. About supporting small businesses as a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, he talked about relaxing regulations and reducing the corporate tax. About cutting the defense budget to reduce the federal deficit, he expected a tough decision.

About his interest in running for President, Brown said he is presently more focused on reelection, while working for his district and economic recovery. About the secret for winning the last year’s election, he said that his strategy to find the common denominator between the Republicans and Democrats worked, and the voters expressed their anger toward Washington politics and their dissatisfaction on economy, tax, spending and national security by electing him.

About his plan to visit Korea, Brown said that he is thinking about this spring.

Joong Ang Ilbo 2/3


The Korean-American committee for the ratification of Korea-U.S. FTA in the U.S. Congress, of which Jay Kim is a co-chairman, held a press conference on February 2. They said that they planned to continue the signature campaign for the ratification of FTA in cooperation with the Korean Association of Virginia. The campaign has been held in churches and markets since 2009.

Jay Kim criticized the Democratic members of Korean National Assembly about their visit to Washington to oppose the Korea-U.S. FTA, saying that it does not make any sense that some members of the National Assembly came here to hold a protest against the FTA when the efforts from the Korean government and Korean Americans made its ratification by this June almost certain, and that it is a disgrace to Korea that they came without previous research or understanding of the situation here to meet U.S. congressmen and oppose the FTA without any plan.

A signature campaign in support of the Korea-America FTA, aimed at Korean society, will be held at St. Paul Chung Catholic Church in Virginia on February 6.

Who pays it, and who gets the benefit? [The Korea Times]

By Jay Kim

Americans often use the expression “who pays, who benefits” for cases where someone gets the benefit of money that somebody else paid, even though the payer should receive a benefit proportional to what they paid.

For example, the free lunch program is not free to payers, since they were forced to pay for the program with their hard-earned money. Why should they pay for it?

There is no one that dislikes anything free. People say that even the rich like free things more. Why should a couple without a child pay for the free lunch of other people’s children?

Even though I pay for the program, doesn’t it seem like the direct benefit actually goes to the politicians who take the credit for the program and get more votes in the next election?

It seems to me like those politicians are the real beneficiaries. The program should be paid with the money from reducing the salaries of those politicians who benefit.

The lunch I make for my child comes from my love of that child, no matter how meager it may be. This type of basic personal freedom and choice should be regarded as something precious.

If I give the government the money for my children’s lunch program, the government will spend half that money as “operational costs” and hire more government employees, which could lead to corruption like bribing government officials with the money from feeding children food that has passed its expiration date.

The U.S. also has a free lunch program called the National School Lunch Program. This program is run by local governments and school districts with money from the federal government, and costs about $10 billion per year.

Only the children of families under the poverty level (as defined by the federal government as families of three whose annual income is below $20,000) are eligible for this program.

Even the U.S., whose GDP is nearly three times higher than Korea’s, does not provide free lunch for every student. Only a country like North Korea coerces children into having the same lunch menu; countries like these have lines for food with empty bowls.

There is still a constant wave of immigrants coming to the U.S. from all over the world, seeking the American dream.

They are not coming to the U.S. because it offers things like free lunches for their children, but because they can make a better life for themselves with all the opportunities available to those who work hard. Americans always reward hard work.

The real American dream is to be able to buy a house, have a car, and gain a good education, not to have a free lunch program. Immigrants don’t come for a handout, but for an equal opportunity to succeed.

If Korea was known to third world countries as the home of free programs for child care, medicine, tuition for colleges, or housing, then many poor immigrants from these poorer countries would probably come to Korea.

This is not the Korean dream. This is simply politicians risking the collapse of the national economy just for getting more votes in the next election with other people’s money.

We should think about why the foreign press points out that Korea’s politics, in contrast with its cutting-edge economy, is still in the third world.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. Congressman. He serves as chairman of the Washington Korean-American Forum. For more information visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com). The views expressed in the above article are the author’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of The Korea Times.