REPORT

CLAREMONT MEETING:

PRELIMINARY ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING

FOR

THE KOREAN-AMERICAN LEAGUE

December 18-19, 1998

Claremont Inn,

Claremont, California

 

Participants:

Rev. Hyun Hoe Cha

4035 Pulido Ct.

Calabasos, CA 91302

Mr. William T. Cho

President

The National Association of Korean Americans

Prof. Chungmoo Choi

Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Literatures

University of California, Irvine

Rev. Michael S. Hahm

475 Riverside Dr. #1338

New York, NY 10115

Rev. Sung Do Kang

Center for Pacific and Asian-American Ministries

Claremont School of Theology

Prof. Chan-Hie Kim

Professor of New Testament and Christian Ministries

Claremont School of Theology

Prof. Elaine H. Kim

Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies

Asian American Studies Program

University of California, Berkeley

Rev. Chei Kwon Lee

Bell Memorial United Methodist Church

1747 South Nogales St.

Roland Heights, CA

Prof. Anselm Kyongsuk Min

Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Theology, Religion Department

Claremont Graduate University

Prof. Young Soon Min

Professor of Art

University of California, Irvine

Mr. Moo-Jae Pak

Senior Conversion Specialist

Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

Dublin, OH

Dr. Moon J. Pak

Internal Medicine

Former President, Christian Association for Medical Mission

Rev. Kil Sang Yoon

Director of Enlistment and Ethnic Concerns

General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Division of Ordained Ministry

Section of Elders and Local Patrons

The United Methodist Church

 

 

Prologue:

The meeting, consisting of three separate sessions, was held in response to a call for the formation of a national organization of Korean-Americans called The Korean-American League (KAL), as delineated in an article appearing in the Joong Ang Ilbo, July 1, 1998 entitled "Review of the Food-Aid Project for the North Korea" (in Korean) by Moon J. Pak, M.D., the former president of Christian Association for Medical Mission.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the conceptual frame-work of the organization as proposed by Dr. Pak and to decide whether the group would agree to the premise that the need for such an organization exists, and if so, to be the nucleus of an entity working on the formation of the organization: The Korean-American League.

Conceptual Frame-work of the KAL as Proposed by Dr. Pak:

  1. To Establish;
  1. A political action committee (PAC) dealing with selected issues relating to Korean-Americans and their communities.
  2. A political action committee (PAC) dealing with selected issues pertaining to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Korean peninsula; development of timely and cogent consensus position papers on various geopolitical, economic and military issues relating to the peace and security of Northeast Asia, in particular the Korean peninsula, from the unique perspective of Americans of Korean ancestry, and actively exerting effort to influence and contribute to the process of policy formulation by both the executive and legislative branches of our federal government.
  3. A blue-ribbon task force charged with the responsibility of developing an innovative, realistic, and comprehensive multi-stage plan for the reconciliation and eventual unification of the Korean peninsula.
  1. Membership:
  2. The Korean-American League (KAL) should be a national organization with regional representation, but with limited membership of individuals and, or institutions, who must be invited to join the organization, at least at its early stage of development. It should maintain its unity of ideals and objectives while open to analyzing diverse viewpoints. We must start with a cohesive group of selected academicians and intellectuals and individuals of known integrity and high ideals, who command a significant measure of respect in the community. It should be regarded a privilege to be a member, representing the best of the Korean-American society.

    Effort should be made early on to inspire and attract many well-educated and accomplished second generation Korean-Americans.

    KAL membership should also include selected individuals of non-Korean descent who are respected and known to have a deep understanding and scholarly interest in the history, economy and geopolitics of the Korean peninsula.

    Based on the quality of the collective reputation and the wisdom of the KAL membership, it is anticipated that on the many important issues facing Korean-Americans, and their communities, as well as the national and international issues surrounding the Korean peninsula, that the organization will be called upon to produce authoritative fact and opinion papers, which may influence the process of policy formulation in our government.

  3. Political Neutrality:
  4. The Korean-American League must intelligently stand apart from ideological and or political polarization existing in the Korean peninsula. It must always deal with the Korean peninsula as a whole, not either of its individual governments. It must command respect of both halves of the peninsula by maintaining a clear neutrality and even-handedness in considering them. Through these efforts, the opinion of the organization must be regarded the voice of reason of objective, learned, overseas- Koreans who have no stake in either side, on all the matters pertaining to the Korean peninsula. Thus, any formal opinion expressed by the organization must be respected and valued for its content by both South and North Korea as well as other countries involved.

     

  5. Leadership:
  6. No individual(s) with his or her own political agenda should be admitted to the Korean-American League. In that connection, the organization’s by-laws may contain a clause that empowers its governing board to dismiss any such individual(s) from the organization. We may consider devising a unique mechanism of rotating leadership so as to preclude any possibility of the organization ever becoming identified with a particular individual, which is often the case with many Korean-American organizations in this country.

  7. Financial Base:

Even at its early stage of development, the KAL must seek reasonably sufficient source of funding to enable at least the employment of a full-time executive director, adequate supporting personnel and maintaining adequate office space.

In the process of securing an essential financial base, care must be exercised to maintain neutrality; funding should not come from either South or North Korean government or individual; it should not depend on a small number of generous contributors either. A proper method for the an early establishment of a foundation, the KAL Foundation, which will evolve in parallel with the main organization and begin to receive tax-exempt donations from individuals and institutions.

We should not embark on any project such as KAL, without a good prospect of securing reasonably sufficient funding support. An early establishment of a foundation; planning and implementation of a detailed immediate and long term fund raising strategy; securing of a reasonably adequate initial seed-money, these are all important prerequisites to the establishment of the Korean-American League.

 

The Meeting:

Rev. Yoon opened the meeting by introducing Dr. Pak to the group; He gave a brief account of Dr. Pak’s professional background; his work for the North Korea medical mission and the food-aid project; and his article appearing in the Joong Ang Ilbo calling for the formation of a Korean-American political action committee, which directly led to the meeting. Dr. Pak distributed materials he prepared containing an agenda of each session, a list of names of individuals who had been apprised of the concept of the KAL and had shown interest, a list of individual and institutional resources that can be of use to the KAL, compiled by Dr. Pak. Copies of Dr. Pak’s Curriculum Vitae were also made available to the participants. It was followed by a round of self-introduction by the participants.

The bulk of the first session was devoted to the presentation by Dr. Pak, who began by giving the account of his and his organization’s frustratingly ineffective North Korea food-aid project. He first gave the result of his analysis estimating the annual minimum food needed by North Korea to avert the famine in that country and compared the figure with the total raised by various Korean-American non-governmental organizations in the year ‘97-’98, and showed that it amounted to less than two day’s worth of the food supply needed. This realization led him to the belief that rather than this kind of self-reliance among the Korean-Americans, which obviously is a symbolic gesture at best, Korean-Americans must funnel their effort to mobilize the U.S. main stream society by organizing themselves into a political action committee, which may be called the Korean-American League. He said that the organization once established may also espouse a broader objective; it could take positions on many selected issues relating to Korean-Americans and their community; it can even function as a think-tank developing a realistic and comprehensive plan for the reconciliation and eventual unification of the Korean peninsula. He then went on to present his vision of a possible conceptual frame work of the organization as described above.

The presentation was followed by a lively discussion among the participants in which the necessity of establishing such an organization seemed to have been accepted as almost given by all the participants. Various participants commented on the past experience of similar organizations of the Korean-Americans; especially the status of the National Association of Korean-Americans (NAKA) was reviewed. The many faceted difficulties the NAKA had faced in its unsuccessful effort to grow into a broad -based, strong entity was presented by one of the participants, Mr. Cho, who is NAKA’s current president.

The second session of the meeting was devoted mainly to discuss some of the aspect of the details of the frame work as presented by Dr. Pak; various ideas to ensure active and meaningful participation of the second generation Korean-Americans (so called, 1.5 and 2.0 KA’s); questions on how to establish the needed regional representation and muster a grass root support while maintaining selected membership as proposed; specifics of methodology in the parallel development of the financial base, the KAL Foundation, etc.

Some participants, especially Prof.Choi raised a concern over the time required to establish such a comprehensive and elaborate organization while some of the issues that we are faced with are rather urgent, e.g. North Korea food-aid, lifting of U.S. sanctions on North Korea, etc. Therefore she argued that we might consider starting to work on "double track" basis, that is to start some concerted lobbying activities immediately to move our government on such issues as above, while simultaneously to forge ahead with the work of developing the KAL.

The third and the last session held on the Saturday morning began with an observation by Dr. Pak, that it has already been half a century since the fateful fratricidal war that devastated the whole Korean peninsula leaving such a deep scar in the psyche of the Korean people, and as yet there is currently not only a lack of even a glimmer of hope of reconciliation but rather, a real threat of another conflagration in the peninsula that will surely nullify all the economic, cultural, industrial gains made by the Koreans in the past fifty years. He went on to say that we the Korean-Americans, as citizens of the country that has the most profound influence on the fate of the peninsula, have the obligation to ensure that the country’s policies on the peninsula are eminently conducive to the peaceful resolution of the situation. It was followed by a plea by Rev. Cha urging the body to move ahead with the proposed plan and begin the process of identifying the leaders who will carry it over toward the phase of implementation. He stated "---everything is in the frame-work, let’s move into implementation."

Rev. Yoon then took the floor and proposed the formation of a steering committee with Dr. Pak as the chairman. Dr. Pak, then moved that the steering committee be composed of all the participants of the Claremont Meeting and that he be called a moderator rather the chairman until the steering committee would have had the representation by the rest of the country, i.e., Midwest and East Coast. The motion was carried by acclamation of those present.

A lengthy discussion then followed on the subject of how best to ensure the meaningful participation of the 1,5 and 2.0 KA’s in the movement. Prof. Choi indicated that Objective A, i.e., a political action committee dealing with selected issues relating to Korean-Americans and their community, may best be left out, since to her view, it sounds too mundane to attract younger generation. The suggestion was taken under advisement by Dr. Pak, who promised to have the issue placed on the agenda at the next meeting, which will be the Midwest meeting in Chicago in March 5-6, 1999.

The group decided that should the outcome of the coming Midwest meeting turn out to be as positive and encouraging as the Claremont meeting, the East Coast meeting should follow it soon, perhaps in New York City, at which time a formal inauguration of the organization may be announced with a slate of officers.

The meeting was adjourned by acclamation in good spirit and hope. A photo session followed.

Respectfully submitted by,

Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.