Congressman, boro Asians debate North Korea policy

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A group of leaders in the Queens Korean-American community urged U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) to help create a strong and consistent policy toward North Korea at a meeting with the congressman at his office last week.

Several of those at the discussion said they hoped the United States would take a hard-line stance toward North Korea, suggesting the communist nation’s leader should be forced to step aside. Others favored negotiations or an economic solution.

All of those who gathered, however, agreed they did not want to see the North Korean issue disappear as the crisis with Iraq escalates.

Crowley, who serves on the Committee of International Relations, told the seven community leaders of the importance of dealing with North Korea.

“What I think is that the situation in North Korea is more serious than the situation in Iraq,” he said.

The meeting between Crowley and the Korean leaders focused on recent tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula.

In the fall, North Korea revealed that it had been secretly developing a nuclear arms program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty months after President George Bush called the communist nation part of the “Axis of Evil.” North Korea, led by President Kim Jong Il, is withdrawing from the international treaty.

Strong rhetoric has continued from both sides, with North Korea promising “total war” in the event of a U.S. attack on its nuclear facilities.

At the same time, relations between the United States and its ally South Korea have changed in the last several months. South Korean President-Elect Roh Moo Hyun questioned the strong U.S. stance against North Korea during his campaign and called for negotiations with the northern neighbor. Large anti-American demonstrations have been held in South Korea recently, although other pro-American demonstrations have also taken place.

The seven Korean-Americans who attended Friday’s meeting made it clear to Crowley that they were very much opposed to voices of anti-Americanism in South Korea. Last month, several of the attendees founded the United Korean-Americans for America, a group formed to show patriotism for the United States. Like the vast majority of the Korean-American population, all of the attendees are of South Korean, not North Korean, descent.

Young Dae Kwon, who runs a Flushing-based Korean television and radio station, suggested the United States adopt a plan to treat Kim Jong Il like Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and not rest until he is exiled from the country.

“The U.S. must have some type of policy to liberate the people of North Korea,” he said.

Adam Kim, executive chairman of the Asian Advisory Council to the Police Department’s Patrol Borough Queens North, also said the United States needed to adopt a more aggressive stance.

“I think this time we had better go a little stronger,” Adam Kim said.

But Dr. Giho Kim, executive director of the Korean-American Counseling Center in Flushing, said Bush’s stance toward North Korea was too harsh.

Giho Kim recommended U.S. companies invest in North Korea.

“Capitalism has tremendous power,” he said. “The North Korean economy will open a little, and the U.S. will benefit from that.”

Crowley, who expressed concern that North Korea would further develop a nuclear arsenal as the United States deals with Iraq, told the group he advocated negotiations with North Korea to pursue peace.

“I prefer that we go back to an open dialogue with the North Koreans,” he said. “I think we should re-engage and get a good understanding of what they want, what is their need.”

While some recommended Bush strengthen his stance on North Korea, almost all criticized his rhetoric toward the country.

“’Axis of Evil’ was a very strong term that President Bush used,” Adam Kim said.

Most of the discussion focused on events abroad. But talk eventually turned to the Korean-American community in the United States. Dr. Joon Bang, president of the Korean American Youth Foundation, worried that anti-Americanism in both North and South Korea could result in a backlash against Koreans in the United States.

“We Korean Americans, we are on a sort of front line,” Bang said.

Crowley acknowledged the worry but said he thought American citizens understood that Korean Americans were proud of their country.

“I think most Americans are savvy enough to know [anti-Americanism] is not the feeling of all Koreans,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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