|Mark L. Keam|
The letter was delivered to the White House Thursday, after Trump made his "fire and fury" remark that prompted Pyongyang to threaten to fire missiles into the sea off Guam.
It was the first time Korean-American elected officials and council members have sent a letter to the U.S. president concerning a matter related to their mother country. This highlights the gravity of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, where tension is escalating over the war of words between Trump and North Korea, the officials said.
They serve at state and local levels of government throughout the United States.
"This is not a time for any side to escalate the language of warfare and introduce the threat of nuclear weapons," they said in the letter. "It is clear that no military action involving 'fire and fury like the world has never seen' can be targeted solely at the North Korean regime."
The letter recalled the tragedies resulting from the 1950-53 Korean War, lingering not only in Korea but also in U.S. society. "Over 36,000 Americans gave their lives to fight against communism," the letter said. "Millions of Korean families live with collective memories of both the American and Korean bloodshed and the unending yearning for those loved ones who were lost or separated during the three-year war."
The public officials further called on Trump to change his foreign policy and use diplomatic experts who can handle the crisis delicately.
"We ask you to pursue all diplomatic options and strategies and to fully staff your State Department with policy experts who understand the Korean Peninsula so that, working with all stakeholders, we can find a workable and permanent peaceful resolution."
Virginia delegate Mark L. Keam, who was born in Seoul, and Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym, a second-generation Korean-American, led the action.
"Across the States, there are around 40 elected politicians with Korean-American identities. By Thursday lunchtime, 20 elected officials signed for it and some people additionally contacted us after the letter was sent," Keam told The Korea Times.
He said the Trump administration, mainly composed of those with business and political backgrounds and advisers without diplomatic knowledge, is not fully aware of the nature of the crisis. "The ambassador to South Korea has been absent for months," Keam said. "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ties with the Russian oil industry but no one in the government seems experienced in four-way or six-way talks about North Korea."
In support of the letter, a group of Korean-Americans based in California issued a statement on the same day. "As citizens, we seek leadership that promotes peace and diplomacy, not war," the Korean American Coalition's Executive Director Joon Bang said.
On Thursday local time, Korean-American politicians in Queens, New York, held a press conference to urge the government to use diplomatic measures to alleviate the conflict. "President Trump's inflammatory language only further escalates tensions on the peninsula and does nothing to stabilize the region," Congresswoman Grace Meng was quoted as saying by local media QNS.
"Dialogue and diplomacy, not bombastic language or saber-rattling, must be the way forward for achieving a peaceful resolution."
Assemblyman Ron Kim echoed the sentiments. "This president's recent threats and careless rhetoric have put the lives of millions of people at risk," he said. "Countless Korean-Americans, including myself, have relatives or family members who live on the peninsula, and who are now in greater danger as a result of his statements."
'Failing US policy'
On July 31, the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), a group of second-generation Korean politicians, attorneys and businesspeople in the United States, called on the U.S. government to "adopt a more creative, proactive and comprehensive approach to address the North Korean problem."
"As citizens of the U.S., we believe our government has an obligation to hear our voice and address the concerns of the Korean American community," the statement read.
"We urge President Trump to stop pursing a failing U.S. policy toward North Korea and to begin talks immediately, rather than start another war on the peninsula," CKA Executive Director Sam Yoon said Aug. 2.