(51) Gaining valuable experience

This is the last of my “Untold Stories” series. Through the course of this series, I have tried to provide my unique experiences, observations, and criticisms, as well as an unbiased comparison between Korea and the U.S., from my service as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

I thank The Korea Times for the opportunity to allow me to write these stories and share them with its readers. I plan to make these behind-the-scenes stories of U.S. politics into a book so that future generations may glean something from my tales.

This book will be published by the Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, and there will be events both in Korea and the U.S. The proceeds from this book will be used to fund the “Jay Kim Fund,” a charity to help future Korean-Americans who harbor political aspirations.

This series is not a memoir of my life, but a series of stories that describe the American politics and society that I felt and experienced. I focused on the subjects that only I could write about from my own experiences. I started this series with the story about my experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its ratification process, and my own campaign for the House.

I also wrote for young Korean-Americans planning to enter politics, providing certain tips for my success in my political campaigns, where personal attacks were flying all over the place.

I talked about the deep emotion that I felt when I returned to Korea for the first time in 31 years, when then-President Roh Tae-woo invited me after I became mayor of Diamond Bar, Calif., the first and only Korean-American mayor in the U.S. I also explained my experience of visiting Taiwan and Hong Kong as a House representative-elect and Taiwan’s decision to sell their nuclear waste to North Korea, and my role in helping to block the transaction by passing a Congressional resolution.

In one of the stories, I talked about a fundamental difference in the lifestyles of the members of the Korean National Assembly and the members of the U.S. Congress. I revealed that many U.S. congressmen commuted to work by subway. I also introduced and provided sketches of my favorite past U.S. presidents. I compared regional animosity in Korea to regional animosity in the U.S. as well as the continuing history of racial discrimination in America. Then, after watching the protests in Seoul, I talked about the freedom of assembly in the U.S., citing my experience as a mayor.

I also wrote about same-sex marriage, which recently caused a controversy in California. I compared the Korean press with the American press, and talked about illegal immigration, one of the U.S.’s biggest headaches, and freedom of religion. I twice looked into whether or not a nation’s political system can change its character. I expressed my opinion on the movement from certain parts of the U.S. to abolish the U.N. and the reform of the U.N. Finally, I finished my series with the explanation of city, state, and federal politics in the U.S.

The death of former President Roh Moo-hyun made me look back on my difficult days. After I was elected into the House in 1991, I was a hero and a rising star. My popularity was so high that I was even in a high school history textbook. I made a lot of speeches in Congress, I was listed by the press as the most passionate freshman congressman two years in a row, and I was ranked as a “rising star” in U.S. politics.

As I did not realize that being on the fast track in politics would bring trouble, after my first official congressional session was over, I participated in a special program on C-Span, which was broadcasted throughout the country, to criticize the newly launched Democratic Clinton administration. Sure enough, a targeted investigation on my campaign fundraising activities started, and there was not one easy day for the rest of my congressional career due to the continuous, persistent investigation.

The investigation looking for allegedly violations of the election laws made my life and the lives of the people around me, including my family, friends and supporters, miserable. When I read the news that some Korean companies paid tremendous fines for making political contributions of a couple of thousand dollars indirectly without knowing the strict U.S. election laws, I was so sorry for them and so hurt from the indignity that I felt because they genuinely did not know about the complicated laws. Every day, major papers printed articles about me with my picture on the front page and targeted me, describing the case as “Korea-gate.”

Articles in Korean newspapers were translated into articles in American newspapers after a couple of days, which would return as new articles in Korean newspapers as they were translated back into Korean. It was a vicious cycle. This process distorted many stories, but I did not have time to respond to each of them one by one. My campaign manager repeatedly told me that when they investigate members of Congress with such intensity, very few could survive. It is almost miracle that I did survive.

Furthermore, when my close friend and volunteer who worked so hard for me was put on trial for violation of the election laws, it was so painful and unfair that I thought about killing myself on his behalf. I heard that his life was eventually ruined by this. However, whenever I was angered by all the controversy, I gritted my teeth and worked even harder in Congress, thinking of many Koreans and local residents who strongly supported and encouraged me and our next generation that considered me as a role model. That is why I kept up my 100 percent voting record.

My campaign manager always said to me that this would never happen if I were white. I didn’t believe it and I still don’t believe it. However, I did not give up, and instead worked hard at my congressional activities to avoid leaving a permanent blemish on Korean-Americans and second-generation Korean immigrants who have ambition in politics. I won all three House elections by a large margin of votes, won the perfect attendance award, and did many things within my power for my district. One accomplishment that I am proud of is the completion of the (LA) Ontario International Airport.

I’ve often thought that a public figure is not alone in the end. Now that I think about it, I am so thankful that I overcame the difficulties. I have gained such a valuable experience. I thank my family and friends, and so many supporters who believed in me whenever I was weak and throughout the several crises. I thank all of them from the bottom of my heart.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the KimChangJoon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).

(50) City and state politics in US

I was a political novice when I was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives. I was a city councilman and a mayor before that, but these were not so much political positions as leadership positions that represented specific areas. There are two types of mayors and city councils in U.S. cities.

In big cities with populations over a million people, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, city councils consisting of roughly 50 members serve as the elected representatives of their districts. A mayor is selected either by an indirect election by the city council, by appointing a councilman with the highest vote in a council election, or by a mayoral election. Of course, the selection method is different in each city, but it is usually one of these three.

These positions are volunteer positions in most cases. They pay either nothing or a small amount of expediency money ($2,000-$3,000 a month). That means that mayors or city councilmen are mostly business owners who can make time for these positions, or locally influential people who are well-off financially.

When I was mayor of Diamond Bar, Calif., I also took care of city affairs at the city hall from 8:30 to 9:30 every morning and then had to hurry off to my civil engineering firm. The city council met once a week. It started at 7 p.m. and sometimes continued until 2 a.m. These council sessions were broadcast live from start to finish on a local cable channel. Sometimes, hundreds of people attended a session.

There were five or six residents who always attended those meetings. They always arrived early and sat in the front row. They always found faults and attacked me, the mayor, or other fellow city council members. Maybe it was their hobby, but they opposed and criticized everything. One session, hoping they wouldn’t come, I asked a staffer about them, who told me that they had been sitting in the front row, looking angry about something. My heart sank at this news. There are people like those in every city, and they are often called “gadflies.”

A mayor or a city councilman usually reveals his party affiliation, though he is not required to do so. However, there is no party nomination system, and during the election, he has to run the campaign without any help from his party. If someone has raised his local recognition by being a mayor or a city council member, he usually takes a shot at the state house or senate as a next step on the political ladder.

To become a member of a state assembly, he needs to go through the nomination process of his party through a primary election. The real party politics starts here. These people can truly be considered “politicians.”

Each state has a governor, a lieutenant governor and a state house speaker. A state assemblyman should have a district in the state, and there is no proportional representation. The system of the upper and lower chambers of a state assembly is slightly different in each state. In California, there are 80 state house seats and 40 state senate seats, each of whose districts combines two house districts. A member of the state house has a two-year term, and there is a three-term limit. The term for the state senate is four years and there is a two-term limit.

Being a state assemblyman in a big state like California, Texas and New York is a full-time job which pays a handsome wage. However, in other small states, these positions are basically volunteer positions. State assemblies do not hold their meetings every day, but a few times a year. Except for budget sessions, they do not meet that often.

Like the federal government, the state government operates on taxes (such as income taxes, sales taxes, and gasoline taxes) on its residents. It is usually not easy to pass a budget because of the opposition party. In the case of California, it is interesting that the governor and the lieutenant governor do not run together as running mates. They run for their offices separately from one another by getting nominations from their parties through primaries.

This means that the elected governor and lieutenant governor may belong to different parties. In that case, the governor always has to be aware of the lieutenant governor, and the lieutenant governor does not hesitate to express his opinion and opposition in executive meetings. In a sense, this is more effective than a toothless prime minister system.

The governor refrains from traveling abroad, absent from his office. The reason is that if the governor leaves his office to travel to a foreign country, the lieutenant governor can sign bills in place of the governor during the period. One can say that the government system in each state is a smaller version of the federal government. The crucial difference from the federal government is that a state assembly only deals with the matters of the state.

So, in most cases, politicians enter the U.S. Congress after getting enough political experience through several years in a state assembly. It is the reason why there are many U.S. congressmen who have been through state assemblies. Since they have enough experience in politics, they start their congressional activities without hesitation, even in the U.S. Congress.

In my case, I went straight from a city council and a mayoral office to the U.S. House without going through the state assembly. I still regret this. I believe that readers can fully imagine how difficult my congressional life was, considering that I was a political novice, who was the only Asian-American House representative from the Republican Party (known as a party of and for white people), and that I was elected in a white district by beating a white state senator and a famous political veteran.

The political advancement of Korean-Americans is in such a feeble state. Paul Shin of Washington is currently the only state assemblyman. Shin was adopted and grew up to become a state assemblyman of whom all Koreans can be proud.

Though the entrance of Korean-Americans into politics is occasionally reported in the front pages of newspapers, they are mostly mayors or city councilmen. I hope that all of them will move into the U.S. Congress through state assemblies.

There have been no other Korean-Americans after me in the U.S. Congress, but it will be only a matter of time. A small nation like Korea has produced geniuses in sports like Olympic baseball, figure skating and golf, something Koreans could never have dreamed of for many years. So, I firmly believe that it will not take long before another Korean-American becomes a U.S. congressman.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the KimChangJoon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).

[WP] Jay Kim Congressional Votes Database

Members of Congress / Jay Kim

Biographical Information

KIM, Jay, a Representative from California; born in Seoul, South Korea, March 27, 1939; graduated from Po Sung High School, Seoul, Korea, 1956; B.S., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif., 1967; M.S., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif., 1969; M.S., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif., 1980; Ph.D., Han Yaug University, Seoul, Korea, 1993; Republic of Korea Army; civil engineer; owner of an engineering firm; member, Diamond Bar, Calif., City Council, 1990-1991; mayor of Diamond Bar, Calif., 1991-1992; elected as a Republican to the One Hundred Third and to the two succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1993-January 3, 1999); was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination to the One Hundred Sixth Congress in 1998. (Source.)

More coverage of Jay Kim on washingtonpost.com

Roles in Congress

· 105th Congress: Representative, California (Dist. 41), Republican. Jan. 3, 1997, to Jan. 3, 1999.
· 104th Congress: Representative, California (Dist. 41), Republican. Jan. 3, 1995, to Jan. 3, 1997.
· 103rd Congress: Representative, California (Dist. 41), Republican. Jan. 3, 1993, to Jan. 3, 1995.

Click here for the full record.

Source: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/k000181/

Jay Kim’s position on Issues

Jay Kim on Education

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Voted YES on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.

Motion to add language to the “Goals 2000: Educate America Act” to give federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.

Bill HR 1804 ; vote number 1994-85 on Mar 23, 1994  

Supports a Constitutional Amendment for school prayer.

Kim sponsored a resolution for a School Prayer Amendment:

H.J.RES.52 (2001), H.J.RES.66 (1999), S.J.RES. 1, H.J.RES.12, H. J. RES. 108, & H. J. RES. 55:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer . Neither the United States nor any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools.

H. J. RES. 78 (1997):

To secure the people’s right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people’s right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, or traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. Neither the United States nor any State shall require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity, prescribe school prayers, discriminate against religion, or deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion.

Proposed Legislation:

  • H.J.RES.52, School Prayer Amendment, 6/13/2001 (Murtha)
  • H.J.RES.12, School Prayer Amendment, 2/7/2001 (Emerson)
  • S.J.RES.1, School Prayer Amendment, 1/22/2001 (Thurmond)
  • H.J.RES.108, Voluntary School Prayer Amendment, 9/21/2000 (Graham)
  • H.J.RES.55, Voluntary School Prayer Amendment, 2/13/1997 (Stearnes, Hall, Watts)
  • H.J.RES.78, Amendment Restoring Religious Freedom, 5/8/1997 (Istook, et. al.)

Source: H.J.Res.78 97-HJR78 on May 8, 1997

Jay Kim on Crime

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Voted NO on maintaining right of habeus corpus in Death Penalty Appeals.

Vote on an amendment to delete provisions in the bill that would make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts [‘Habeas Corpus’].

Bill HR 2703 ; vote number 1996-64 on Mar 14, 1996

Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder.

Vote on a bill to make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts.

Bill HR 729 ; vote number 1995-109 on Feb 8, 1995

Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment.

Amendment to replace death penalty crimes in the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill with life imprisonment.

Bill HR 4092 ; vote number 1994-107 on Apr 14, 1994

More prisons, more enforcement, effective death penalty.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

The Taking Back Our Streets Act:
An anti-crime package including stronger truth in sentencing, “good faith” exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer’s crime bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.

Jay Kim on Budget & Economy

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Supports balanced budget amendment & line item veto.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

The Fiscal Responsibility Act:
A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA3 on Sep 27, 1994

Jay Kim on Families & Children

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Use tax code to reinforce families.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

The Families Reinforcement Act:
Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children’s education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society.

Jay Kim on Government Reform

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Limit punitive damages; term limits on Congress.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bills]:

The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act:
“Loser pays” laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages, and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.

 

The Citizen Legislature Act:A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA11 on Sep 27, 1994

Government is too big, too intrusive, too easy with money.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.

On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:

  1. Require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
  2. Select a major independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse;
  3. Cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
  4. Limit the terms of all committee chairs;
  5. Ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
  6. Require committee meetings to be open to the public;
  7. Require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase
  8. Guarantee an honest accounting of our federal budget by implementing zero baseline budgeting.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA2 on Sep 27, 1994

Jay Kim on Homeland Security

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

No US troops under UN command; more defense spending.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

The National Security Restoration Act:
No US troops under UN command, and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA8 on Sep 27, 1994

Jay Kim on Jobs

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

 

Incentives to businesses create jobs & raise wages.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act:
Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs and raise worker wages.

Source: Contract with

Jay Kim on Principles & Values

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

 

Contract with America: 10 bills in 1st 100 days of Congress.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body, we propose not just to change its policies, but to restore the bounds of trust between the people and their elected representatives. That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.

Within the first hundred days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given a full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote, and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny:

  1. The Fiscal Responsibility Act: Balanced budget amendment & line item veto
  2. The Taking Back Our Streets Act: More prisons, more enforcement, more death penalty
  3. The Personal Responsibility Act: Limit welfare to 2 years & cut welfare spending
  4. The Families Reinforcement Act: Use tax code to foster families
  5. The American Dream Restoration Act: Repeal marriage tax; cut middle class taxes
  6. The National Security Restoration Act: No US troops under UN command; more defense spending
  7. The Senior Citizens Fairness Act: Reduce taxes on Social Security earnings
  8. The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act: Incentives to small businesses
  9. The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act: Limit punitive damages
  10. The Citizen Legislature Act: Term limits on Congress

Further, we will work to enact additional budget savings, beyond the budget cuts specifically included in the legislation above, to ensure that the federal budget will be less than it would have been without the enactment of these bills. Respecting the judgment of our fellow citizens as we seek their mandate for reform, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with America.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA1 on Sep 27, 1994

Jay Kim on Social Security

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Reduce taxes on Social Security earnings.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

 

The Senior Citizens Fairness Act:
Raise the Social Security earnings limit, which currently forces seniors out of the workforce; repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security; and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance to let older Americans keep more of what they have earned over the years

Jay Kim on Tax Reform

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Repeal marriage tax; cut middle class taxes.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

 

The American Dream Restoration Act:
A $500-per-child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle-class tax relief.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA7 on Sep 27, 1994

Jay Kim on Welfare & Poverty

Former Republican Representative (CA-41)

Limit welfare to 2 years & cut welfare spending.

Kim signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

The Personal Responsibility Act:
Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA5 on Sep 27, 1994

Jay Kim’s position on Family & Children Act

Jay Kim signed the Contract with America:

(As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill):

The Families Reinforcement Act:
Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society.

Source: Contract with America 93-CWA6 on Sep 27, 1994.

http://www.ontheissues.org/CA/Jay_Kim_Families_+_Children.htm