Ranking Faleomavaega announced that the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific held a hearing today on next steps for the U.S.-Republic of Korea Alliance. The full text of the Ranking Member’s statement before the Subcommittee is included below.
You and I recently had the opportunity to meet with President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House on April 29, 2013. President Park is the first freely elected woman leader among the nations of Northeast Asia and the first woman President of the Republic of Korea. She is a role model for women everywhere.
I was deeply touched that the first matter she raised with me during our meeting was an op-ed I wrote about the Comfort Women issue which was published by the Kyung Hyang Seoul paper on the very day we met with her. As you know, during WWII, many young girls were forced into wartime brothels by the Japanese Imperial Forces, and many of the young girls that were forced into sexual slavery were from the Republic of Korea. Today, we affectionately refer to these women as our “grandmothers.”
Their story is near and dear to my heart and this is why the first hearing I ever held as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific was about them. I will never forget the courage Madam Park showed in attending that hearing where three victims – two Korean ladies and one Dutch lady -- testified.
At the time, in 2007, even Members of the U.S. Congress were hesitant to show public support for these women who were forced into sexual slavery 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.
I want to once more publicly commend Mr. Dong Suk Kim and his organization, Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE), for taking the lead in spearheading community efforts for the successful passage of H. Res. 121 which called upon the Japanese government to issue a formal apology to these women.
I also want to add my voice in support of fully implementing the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. On March 20, 2013, former Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the Foreign Affairs Committee and I introduced H.R. 1279, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Fairness Act of 2013, bi-partisan legislation which would grant ROK nationals a similar visa status for skilled workers as was granted to Australian citizens following the successful negotiation of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
Subsequent to the adoption of its FTA with the United States, Australia was able to obtain 10,500 E-3 visas per year, which are similar to H-1B visas, from the United States for which only citizens of Australia are eligible. Due to some oversight, negotiators failed to work out an agreement like this for the ROK during KORUS FTA proceedings, and this is why Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and I worked hard in the aftermath to create parity for the ROK. As a long standing ally of the U.S., we believe the ROK deserves fair treatment and so we put forward a bill which would grant ROK nationals 10,500 visas per year for skilled workers that meet the eligibility requirements.
Given that our bill provides parity, we were hopeful that our bill would be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but, regrettably, the ROK Embassy in the United States decided it did not want parity with Australia. The ROK decided it wants more visas than Australia. So, on April 26, 2013, some of our colleagues introduced H.R. 1812 which would provide the ROK with 15,000 visas rather than 10,500 visas which Australia received from the United States.
I am not supportive of this higher quota because it is insensitive to other countries and most especially to our American workers who do not need to be needlessly displaced. I also do not believe we should open up a visa bidding war with TPP negotiations coming up.
I am supportive of the 1-2-3 civil nuclear cooperation agreement although I do believe we need to take some time to work out our differences regarding how to treat fuel making technologies and so I am pleased that we have simply extended the current agreement by two years until we can resolve these technicalities.
Faleomavaega concluded his statement by welcoming the witnesses.