Korean American Harvard student challenges Trump on S. Korea criticism

October 13, 2015

NEW YORK (Yonhap) — A Korean American Harvard University student said Tuesday he challenged Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump because he wanted to make it known that Trump has made inaccurate accusations about defense relations between South Korea and the United States.

“People tend to believe what influential people like Trump say even if they make wrong claims. I just wanted to make it known that (Trump’s claims) are wrong,” said Joseph Choi, 20, a Harvard University student majoring in economics, told Yonhap News Agency.

Choi drew media attention when he confronted Trump with a question pointing out that he has made wrong accusations that South Korea relies on the U.S. for its defense without paying anything in return, even though the Asian ally makes a lot of money.

Trump has repeatedly made such criticism, even though South Korea has shouldered part of the money needed for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea to deter aggression from the communist North.

“You said that South Korea takes advantage of the United States in terms of the defense spending on the Korean Peninsula. You said that they don’t pay anything … I just want to get the facts straight,” Choi told Trump during a question and answer session following a campaign speech in New Hampshire on Monday.

Trump asked Choi in turn if he is from South Korea.

“I am not. I was born in Texas and raised in Colorado,” Choi responded. “no matter where I am from, I would like to get my facts straight. And I want to tell you that that’s not true. South Korea paid $861 million” to help fund the U.S. troop presence in the country.

Trump refused to admit he’s wrong, claiming the money is “peanuts compared to what it’s costing us.”

In April, Choi also confronted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a question about the country’s sexual enslavement of women, mostly Korean, for its troops during World War II.

Choi said that even though he’s an American citizen, he has taken a lot of interest in South Korean issues as his parents are from Korea.

“Frankly speaking, I am interested in politics,” Choi said. “Though I’m an American citizen born in the United States, I have interest in South Korean politics as well because I’m of Korean descent.”

Choi said he has wanted to set facts straight after learning of Trump’s criticism this past summer while he was on an internship with the South Korean National Assembly’s committee on foreign affairs and unification affairs for two months.

That’s why he traveled all the way to New Hampshire even though it’s a midterm exam period.

“It’s not important that I’m of Korean descent. I just wanted to set facts straight,” he said.

Choi said he hopes to work in the area of international politics and diplomacy, and is also interested in American politics.