Ranking Member Eni Faleomavaega of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific met with South Korean President Madam Park last week on April 29, 2013 in Seoul, Korea at the Blue House prior to her arrival in Washington DC where she addressed a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on May 8, 2013.
“Chairman Steve Chabot and I visited South Korea, Japan and Taiwan as part of our official duties for the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and it was our honor to meet with President Park. I was deeply touched that the first matter she raised with me was an op-ed I wrote about the Comfort Women issue which was published by the Kyung Hyang Seoul paper on April 29, 2013 -- the same day we met with President Park in South Korea. It was clear to me then and now that this issue is very important to President Park.”
“In fact, in 2007, when I was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, I held the first historic hearing on the Comfort Women issue. Although legislation had been introduced for more than a decade in the U.S. Congress, including by my good friend Congressman Lane Evans, Congress had never held a hearing on the matter. But, in 2007, I determined that my first act as Chairman would be to hold a hearing and, at that hearing, our Committee Members heard the excruciating testimony of three of the victims, two Korean ladies and one Dutch lady. The Committee was extraordinarily honored to have President Park Geun-hye, then a Member of South Korea’s National Assembly, attend the hearing as an observer.”
“I never forgot the courage Madam Park showed in attending that historic hearing. At the time, even Members of the U.S. Congress, were hesitant to show public support for these women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese Imperial Forces during WWII. But, Madam Park did not hesitate. She sat prominently in the front of the room, and was the first Korean leader ever to attend a hearing in the U.S. Congress in support of these women who we now affectionately refer to as our “grandmothers.”
“I admired Madam Park then and I admire her now as the first woman President of the Republic of Korea. Japan, as of yesterday, reversed its position and announced that it will now stand by official apologies its country’s leaders made two decades ago to the women who were forced into wartime brothels. Japan’s reversal has eased tensions in the region and I credit, in part, President Park for this reversal.”
“President Park has shattered the glass ceiling for Asian women by attaining the highest office in South Korea but she also became the first freely elected woman leader among the nations of Northeast Asia. She is a role model for women, young and old. And her story is made more remarkable given that she is the daughter of a mother slain by a North Korean agent in 1974. For the good of her country, she raises the possibility of new beginnings as she traveled to North Korea in 2002 to meet the very man, Kim Jong-il, who was likely responsible for the murder of her mother.”
“In tribute for all she stands for, I entered a statement in the Congressional Record on February 14, 2013 congratulating her on her election and inauguration. On Tuesday May 7, 2013, I was invited to attend a Commemorative Dinner in honor of President Park to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ROK-US alliance. I was privileged to sit at President Park’s table where we had an opportunity to talk again.”
“President Park says she will remain steadfast in pushing forward ‘a process of trust-building on the Korean Peninsula. I am confident, she says, ‘that trust is the path to peace – the path to a Korea that is whole again.’”
But, as she says, ‘it takes two hands to clap. Trust is not something that can be imposed on another. The pattern is all too familiar – and badly misguided. North Korea provokes a crisis. The international community imposes a certain period of sanctions. Later, it tries to patch things up by offering concessions and rewards. Meanwhile, Pyongyang uses that time to advance its nuclear capabilities. And uncertainty prevails. It is time to put an end to this vicious cycle.’”
I wholeheartedly agree with President Park, and my position in not supporting this vicious cycle is a matter of public record for the past 6 or more years. I applaud President Park for her visionary leadership which is very much needed right now. As President Park put it before the Joint Session of Congress, ‘those who are blind to he past cannot see the future.’”
We must meet challenges together and push forward for peace and cooperation. I feel better about Northeast Asia than I have in a long time, thanks to President Park’s ideas, passion and drive for a brighter future. I urge the U.S. to seriously consider her remarks before the Joint Session of Congress which serve to strengthen the U.S.-Korea alliance,” Faleomavaega concluded.