Report on the Korean American Grassroots Conference and 7th Anniversary of the Comfort Women Resolution
Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) held the inaugural Korean American Grassroots Conference from July 29th to July 31st, 2014 in Washington DC. KACE also raised awareness about the “comfort women” issue by taking two “comfort women” survivors from the House of Sharing (Ok-seon Lee and Il-chul Kang) to the United States Congress and the White House for an official meeting.
- “Comfort women” survivors: Il-chul Kang (86), Ok-seon Lee (87), meet with officials from the White House (July 30th) and the US State Department (July 31st)
- 7th Anniversary of the “comfort women” resolution and the inaugural Korean American Grassroots Conference (KAGC)
– Grassroots lobbying for HR 1812
– Grassroots Education
– 7th Anniversary of the “comfort women” resolution reception and gala
“Comfort women” survivors: Il-chul Kang and Ok-seon Lee, meet with officials from the White House (July 30th) and US State Department (July 31st)
Even though Congressman Mike Honda included in the appropriation bill that the State Department brings up the “comfort women” issue during its exchanges with Japan, the State Department and the administration have been irresponsive. The meetings were arranged in order to elicit some form of response.
July 30th, “comfort women” survivors Il-chul Kang and Ok-seon Lee meet with Paulette Aniskoff, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement.
July 31st, “comfort women” survivors meet with the State Department officials in the Korea and Japan divisions of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
7th Anniversary of the “comfort women” resolution and the inaugural Korean American Grassroots Conference (KAGC)
[KAGC attendees during grassroots education workshop]
300 Korean Americans from all across the United States including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Virginia, California, and Georgia, congregated in Washington DC to be educated about grassroots activism and lobbied in support of H.R. 1812 (Partner with Korea Act), a bill that will create a new visa category for Korean skilled workers.
[Executive Director of KACE, Dong-suk Kim]
On July 29th, the first day of the conference, attendees learned how to achieve political empowerment through grassroots activism, studied demographics of Korean Americans through various data, and learned about voting rights advocacy. Attendees were also educated on how to conduct grassroots lobbying, and the benefits of implementing HR 1812.
[July 30th: Congressman Peter Roskam and Ho-young Ahn, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States]
On July 30th, the second day of the conference, Congressman Peter Roskam, who first introduced HR 1812 explained the content and the importance of the bill to the attendees during an information session. Ho-Young Ahn, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States, joined the information session and gave words of encouragement to the attendees. After the information session, 123 attendees were divided into 14 groups for lobby day. The groups visited 204 congress members’ offices and were able to meet with 19 congress members.
[A lobbying team with Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey]
The Illinois team lead by KAVOICE met congressmen Peter Roskam (R), Danny Davis (D), and Brad Schneider (D), and congresswomen Tammy Duckworth (D) and Jan Schakowsky (D). New York and New Jersey team lead by KACE met congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-D), and congressmen Joseph Crowley (NY-D), Scott Garrett (NJ-R) and Bill Pascrell (NJ-D).
Texas team lead by the Korean American Association of Houston met congressmen Ted Poe (R) and John Culberson (R), and congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D). Virginia team met congressman Robert Scott (D) and urged for his support for HR 1812. Congressmen Ken Calver (CA-R), Michael Grimm (NY-R), and Brad Sherman (CA-D) met with the lobbying groups as well. 3 additional congress members have sponsored the bill as a result of the lobbying initiative.
On the evening of July 30th, 7th Anniversary of the Comfort Women Resolution reception and Korean American Grassroots Gala were held in conjunction. Two senators and ten representatives joined the occasion, which is unprecedented for an event held by a Korean American organization. Senator Robert Menendez (NJ-D), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Mark Begich (AK-D) attended the gala and urged the Korean Americans to continue their grassroots activism.
[Senator Robert Menendez (NJ-D), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee]
[Senator Mark Begich (AK-D)]
Congress members Mike Honda (D-CA), Ed Royce (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Mark Takano (D-CA) attended the gala as well. From Korea, Ambassador Ho-Young Ahn, Congressman Yoon-Joe Shim, and Gyeonggi governor Kyung-pil Nam attended the gala and praised the Korean Americans on building a bridge between the United States and South Korea.
[July 30th: Ok-seon Lee (left) and Il-chul Kang (right) gives Congressman Mike Honda an appreciation plaque]
The gala was held in conjunction with the 7th Anniversary of the Comfort Women Resolution reception. “Comfort women” survivors Ok-seon Lee and Il-chul Kang from the House of Sharing attended the reception and expressed their appreciation for the Korean Americans and United States congress members. Congressman Mike Honda and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen stressed the importance of resolving the “comfort women” issue.
The outcome of the Korean American Grassroots Conference 2014 is as follows:
1. Laid the foundation for next year’s conference
2. Surpassed our goal of having 100 co-sponsors for HR 1812, and strengthened the same bill that was sent to the senate.
3. Arranged meetings between the “comfort women” survivors and officials from the White House and the State Department, provnig that the United States administrative government is concerned about the issue.