Leaders agree on importance of Korean voice at DC conference

October 26, 2015
CKA National Summit & Gala was held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23 and 24.

CKA National Summit & Gala was held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23 and 24.

By Lee Chang-yeol

The largest Korean American leadership conference in the United States saw a successful weekend in Washington, D.C.

Attended by a slew of influential leaders as well as young hopefuls, the Council of Korean Americans National Summit & Gala offered the community a chance to partake in networking, a White House briefing and a congressional briefing.

About 400 Korean American leaders gathered inside the Ronald Reagan building for the gala, which opened with a video speech by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Three Korean Americans — Yale Law School professor Harold Koh, SHI International CEO Thai Lee and Bright Future Foundation President Hong Myung-ki — were award recipients.

Thai Lee told the story of her father, who had little money during the Korean War but who graduated from an American university before returning to Korea to serve under South Korean Presidents Rhee Syngman and Park Jung-hee.

While thinking of her father’s generation, Thai Lee said she realized it was possible to overcome any adversity.

Other speakers focused on the importance of Koreans helping others in need – World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in a discussion with ABC Nightline anchor Juju Chang, said Korea was a poorer country than Somalia and Ghana when he was born in 1959.

“It’s important for us as Koreans to understand the Korean experience,” he said. “In 1959, Korea had no hope and little in the way of an education system, but look at what it’s become.”

He urged the necessity of Korea to help developing nations that are undergoing similar struggles.

“It’s time for Koreans to make a voice,” said John Lim, a CKA leader. “We need people who are not just becoming doctors and lawyers but journalists and professionals in a diversity of fields.”

Ban agreed with Lim.

“It’s time for Korean Americans to become leaders in a range of fields,” he said. “That will be helpful not just to Korea and America but to the entire world.”

The Korea Times was an event sponsor.