Posted on July 30, 2009
On July 29, 2009 the Korean American Voters’ Council Summer Interns from both the New York and New Jersey offices headed out to Washington, DC to meet with their respective local congressional leaders, learn more about the grassroots to international link, discuss pressing matters about the community with the congressmembers, and tour the various Capitol buildings.
The field trip started off with a quick tour of the surrounding museums, more famously known as the Smithsonian. After an hour of roaming the great halls of knowledge, the interns grouped up and traveled to the Rayburn House Office Building, one of the three grand halls which serve as the offices for the 435 congressional members throughout the year.
A quick visit to the Rayburn cafeteria, the largest of the three, left the interns full and satisfied, ready to present their local community issues to their congressional leaders. On a side note, the prices at the cafeteria were beyond even Manhattan elite restaurant prices.
The first main stop on this trip would be to Congressman Gary L. Ackerman’s office located in room 2243 within the Rayburn House Office Building. Congressman Ackerman represents District 5 in New York.
The NY interns, Jihyung Kim, Kijae Ki, Sosung Kim, and Yoonsun Na, presented their current projects. The first was the amendment of the Alternate side parking regulations on Northern Boulevard, running from Bayside to Flushing, primarily used to alleviate traffic during the rush hour session. A lopsided time restriction during the afternoon ends up being counter productive to local small business, many of which are Korean owned.
The lack of parking and the overzealous nature of local law enforcement ends up taking away from potential business and from the local community from running essential errands to groceries, laundromats, and other small businesses after picking up their children from school. Police cars end up taking multiple lanes as they double or triple park, blocking more traffic and thus making the regulation ineffective.
The second project was regarding the erection of a small monument or plaque as a memorial to the various girls and women victimized during WWII as “Comfort Women” by the Government of Japan. This monument’s purpose is to commemorate the women’s struggles and their courage to endure the hardships throughout the years, and more importantly to educate the community at large of the horrible warcrimes and atrocities against human rights and women’s rights so that they may never happen again.
Both projects also involved petition drives in which hundreds of petition signatures were collected in support of both the alternate side parking revision and the comfort woman monument respectively. These petitions were delivered to Congressman Ackerman during the presentation. The Congressman was sympathetic to both causes and explicitly supported the comfort woman monument campaign.
Shortly after there was a quick photo shoot and question and answer session with Congressman Ackerman and he left to chamber to vote.
Next stop on the trip would be the Capitol Visitor Center, where a special tour was reserved beforehand by the Congressmembers for the interns. The interns were led throughout the various buildings as the tour guide pointed out various important landmarks, statues, paintings, and informed us on the proud history of the growth of this democratic nation.
From the end of that tour, it was a quick walk to the Cannon House Office Building to meet with Congressman Scott Garrett, who represents District 5 in New Jeresy.
The NJ Interns, Cristina Kwon, Paul “Kyucheol” Kim, Jay Hyung Lee, Joshua Lee, Yoon Ji Nam, Dasol Park, Ashely Shim, Michelle Whang, and Jae An presented their current project to the Congressman.
Their project focused on the creation of a “Comfort Woman” monument or plaque, as a memorial to the various girls and women victimized during WWII by the Government of Japan, in front of the Hackensack Courts, as there are already various monuments representing other human rights violations already erected in that square. This monument’s purpose is to commemorate the women’s struggles and their courage to endure the hardships throughout the years, and more importantly to educate the community at large of the horrible warcrimes and atrocities against human rights and women’s rights so that they may never happen again.
The project also included an extensive grassroots petition campaign which collected nearly one thousand signature for the support of this project. The petitions were delivered to the Congressman and he was more than happy to support this grassroots movement to uphold the integrity of human rights and women’s rights.
The NJ interns also had an opportunity to sit with Congressman Garrett and discuss other local community issues and get advice on how to proceed with the monument project. However, shortly after the photo session, Congressman Garrett had to leave for another vote held in the house.
Next stop on the field trip was the KORUS house, also known as the Republic of Korea’s Embassy in Washington, DC. The interns were able to meet prominent diplomatic officers and talk to them about futures in international service and diplomatic relations.
The last stop was a short one to the White House, just for a quick look and a photo opportunity, as obviously the White House itself was closed to visitors.