“ I respect overseas Koreans who chose challenge
and will provide effective and faster services ”
-How would you like to be known to Korean citizens in the United States?
▶ I’d like to be remembered as an innovator who can fix the chronic illness of South Korean politics. I am fully aware that the recent political turmoil in Korea has caused pain and concern among overseas Koreans. I am also aware that overseas Koreans are concerned about how their country is perceived around the world because of its conflicting political situations and that today’s reality could at times even be an embarrassment. As one of the politicians in Korea, I owe an apology to all Koreans around the world for failing to prevent a situation like this.
I have never proposed policies on public safety and international relations for the purpose of boosting my approval rating within Korea and I don’t plan on doing that in the future as well. I am certain that overseas Koreans who are familiar with South Korean politics are also aware of where I stand. I will always prepare myself to create policies that prioritize the interest of our country rather than making decisions to better my approval ratings when we face new challenges ahead. I am confident that our citizens in the U.S. will understand my true intentions.
-How much awareness do you have on Korean citizens living abroad?
▶ Regardless of where we may live, we are all Koreans who share the same root. Overseas Koreans are no different from our citizens living back home. The Korean government must be able to trust and rely on overseas Koreans as much as we do with our citizens back home.
I believe that the creative mind of overseas Koreans is a great attribute that we all must learn. By leaving the comfort of home, I can imagine that the overseas Koreans have at times lived through days of pain as they tried to adjust to life in places where cultures and languages are completely different.
By attending schools in the U.S. myself, I’ve faced challenges of my own. It is the same with my daughter who’s currently studying in the U.S. The overseas Koreans rid themselves of the comfort and opted to take on a new challenge. They possess strong determination, which is something I share as I’ve navigated through my career as a doctor, software developer, business owner and politician. Every time I was about to feel the comfort, I chose to take on a new challenge. I believe that is something overseas Koreans will recognize.
I am always giving my best to become better. I even watch YouTube videos to improve the volume of my voice after hearing that my voice is too thin. My belief is that if I cannot change myself, there is no way I can change our country. I always strive to be the best that I can be.
-Where do you stand on the rights of overseas Koreans?
▶ The 7 million overseas Koreans around the world are doing their best in their respective roles while showing affection towards their country. I believe that there needs to be a governing body that can lead to create policies after hearing out the opinions of our citizens around the world. I’m going to put forth my efforts to further protect the rights of overseas Koreans. I’ll strengthen the collaborative network for overseas Koreans through reasonable measures and provide stronger support for the education system for our citizens abroad. I’ll especially focus on expanding the education provided by Korean cultural centers in foreign countries.
-Do you have plans to establish the Overseas Koreans Center?
▶That is a task that can no longer be delayed. The population of overseas Koreans is 14 percent of our country’s overall population. To develop a systematic support, I’m going to establish an organization that is a direct subdivision of the presidential cabinet. By doing so, I’ll be able to provide the effective and faster services to our citizens abroad. I’m going to be the one running this project to improve the lives of our citizens.
-What are your plans on allowing dual-citizenship?
▶The era of categorizing people by their nationality is now over. The individual ingenuity and ability should be supported by the government so that they can exercise those skills on the world’s biggest stage. However, allowing dual citizenships to government secretaries and higher officials is a different matter.
-Do you have plans to support Koreans to choose to relocate to other countries?
▶It is up to the individual to decide whether the best place to live the dream is Korea or somewhere else. In Korea, young people are describing their own country as “Hell Josun.” I’d like to turn that into a “happy Korea.” However, it is impossible to immediately create tens of thousands of jobs. It is also impossible for me to raise the growth of the Korean economy by 10 percent or more. Considering that reality, I believe that it’s the government’s responsibility to support citizens who leave to other countries in search of more opportunities.
-What are your plans on supporting overseas Koreans who are looking to move back?
▶I believe that the overseas Koreans who return to our country is a reality that makes our country more dynamic. I’m going to provide programs to help overseas Koreans to maintain a sense of their identity. By protecting the rights of our citizens abroad, I’m going to support them if they choose to return and settle in our country again. The U.S. became the country that it is by showing the strength to embrace immigrants. I’m going to create a society in which talented overseas Koreans will be welcomed to come back.
-Overseas Koreans have an easier time visiting North Korea. What are your thoughts on utilizing the overseas Koreans to bridge the gap between the two Koreas?
▶I agree entirely. I’m going to expand the network of overseas’ Koreans who work in various fields, including politics and researches as well as broadening the network of Korean merchants around the world. I’m going to strengthen the policies that will help overseas Koreans to play the role of a bridge between the two Koreas.
-What kind of president would you like to be remembered as?
▶Abraham Lincoln is remembered for freeing slaves, while Franklin Roosevelt is remembered for reviving the American economy. Barrack Obama will be remembered as the friend of Americans who laughed and cried together with his people. I want history to remember me as a president who started the era of South Koreans earning $30,000, $40,000 a year. I’d have no regrets if I can be remembered as the president who achieved the Korean unification after 67 years of division.
By Wonyoung Lee