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Korea’s First U.S. Lobbyist

Posted January. 20, 2006 04:53,   


Talk at the regular briefing held at the South Korean Embassy in Washington on January 17 centered on the identity of Thomas Kim (photo). This 30-something man is being entrusted with the task of representing Korean interests before the U.S. Congress.

This is the first time Korea has openly employed a lobbyist for the U.S. Congress.

The South Korean government signed a contract with Scribe Strategies and Advisers this January, where Kim is a partner. The contract runs for one year. Along with direct diplomacy between government officials, the government has placed a young lobbyist at the heart of the Washington lobby arena: K Street, demonstrating Korea’s willingness to use “two-track” diplomacy.

A Korean-American from New York, Kim previously served in the Clinton Administration. He acquired experience on the Senate Committee on International Relations by supporting former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, as well as former U.S trade representative Charlene Barshefsky. Kim obtained his degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University.

The South Korean Embassy entered a trial period with the lobbying firm from last October to December. The current contract is proof of the company’s exemplary track record during the period. During the trial period, the U.S. House of Representatives prepared the groundwork for legislation related to the visa waiver program, and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) sent a note to U.S. President George W. Bush. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) of the House International Relations Subcommittee passed around a “Dear Colleague Letter” emphasizing the importance of South Korea-U.S. relations to other lawmakers.

“The change may seem insignificant, but reflecting on past lobbying experiences with Congress, the move is unprecedented,” one current lobbyist assessed.

Thomas Kim worked for Hyundai Heavy Industries in the 1990s and served Chung Mong-joon at the Korean Football Association during Korea’s World Cup bid in 1996.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com