한국 고려대학교에 재학중인 박소현 학생은 방학을 맞아 미국에 왔다가 시민참여센터와 함께 지난 1월 3일 미 연방 의회 113차 회기 개막식에 참여하였다. 시민참여센터는 미국 한인 사회 최초로 단체로 미국 연방 의회 개막식을 맞아 연방 의원 사무실에 일일이 직접 찾아가 한인들의 주요 현안들을 알렸다. 박소현 학생은 시민참여센터와 함께 한인 사회 주요 이슈를 의원들에게 전하는 풀뿌리 로비와 미국 연방 의회 정치 시스템을 경험한 미 의회 방문기를 적었다.
Recently, there was a presidential election in South Korea and this was significant to me because I was finally of age to have the right to vote. As a voter, I became interested in the policies that candidates offered. This naturally led to my fascination for politics. Meanwhile, I came upon the column, “Let’s go to the Congress”, on the Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) website. This kindled my curiosity and I contacted this organization to join them visiting the United States House welcoming party.
The opening ceremony of the Congress was an unfamiliar event to me. Although I had never been to the Korean Assembly, I knew that this kind of celebration of opening the Congress to the public did not exist in Korea. It was impressive to see that Congressmen were so open and active on listening to local issues. The ceremony felt like a party because the Congressmen invited their family and friends to share food and drinks to celebrate the opening of the House and prosperity of U.S.A. I thought that this openness to public was significant as it seemed to convey the message that politics of America was always open to its people.
The KACE members had prepared seven Congress policy priorities for Korean Americans to present to the Congressmen they had scheduled to meet. Their purpose was to introduce their organization’s existence and present policy priorities striving for the wellbeing of the Korean American community. They had to wait sometimes for hours to get in reach with the Congressman to convey their demand and opinions. Waiting with the KACE members, I felt their eagerness and enthusiasm to contribute to the Korean American people.
When we visited Congressman Eni Faleomavaega’s office, I was deeply impressed by his hospitality and concerns on Korean issues. He accurately pointed out problems and gave reasonable solutions to the unification of Korea. When he asked what the most important priority among the seven priorities was, someone replied the Dream Act. The Dream Act is a movement to support immigrant students in U.S.A after graduation that can be applied to all foreign immigrant students. Of course this would benefit the Korean American people to some extent. The time that KACE members are given to present their demands are very much valuable to them. If I were in their position, I would have presented the matters that are directly focused on the Korean American community first, such as issuing E3 visas to South Korean workers which is a very creative and innovative idea.
The visit to the U.S. Congress was an unforgettable experience for me. I felt and learned a lot through this trip. I got to know an organization that diligently makes an effort for the Korean American society. It was a great opportunity for me to meet KACE members and broaden my views on politics.