In the U.S. midterm elections, two candidates of Korean descent have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican Young Kim, 56, won 51.6 percent of the votes in the race for the 39th House District in California, leading Democrat Gil Cisneros.
Democratic Andy Kim, 35, declared his victory through his Facebook page over incumbent Republican Representative Tom MacArthur in New Jersey’s hotly contested 3rd House District at a point when Kim led the Democrat by about 2,600 votes.
Their victories would mark the first elections of Korean-Americans to Congress in 20 years since the retirement in 1998 by Chang Joon "Jay" Kim, who served as three terms as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives in California. It would also be the first time in the history of Korean immigration to the U.S. that two Korean-Americans become House members.
Young Kim, a South Korean immigrant, worked for longtime Republican Representative Ed Royce, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, for 21 years before taking over his electoral district following his retirement. Born and raised in Incheon, South Korea, she immigrated to the United States at age 13. She has become the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress, overcoming the barriers of ethnic minority, gender and an immigrant status.
Andy Kim, who was born between an orphan-turned genetic engineer father and a nurse mother, served as an Obama administration official who worked as a civilian adviser on the Middle East.
There are about two million Korean-Americans in the United States but they have been politically underrepresented. Without any congressional representation, the Korean community has had little political influence in the U.S. mainstream and often been excluded from policymaking processes. Their election victories mean more than their personal accomplishments and symbolize the advancement of the Korean community in the U.S.
Korean-Americans having greater voices in U.S. federal politics is meaningful in that they can bridge between their country and South Korea. The two Kims have expressed interest in Korean Peninsula issues such as North Korean human rights and the Seoul-Washington relations. We hope that the victories will provide an opportunity for Korean-Americans to have greater political voices and influences in the U.S. mainstream.