A firm voice of support from afar

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A firm voice of support from afar


U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega speaks at the Korea DMZ Peace Forum last week about inter-Korean relations, comfort women and other topics. [YONHAP]

United States Democratic Congressman Eni Faleomavaega is one of a handful of U.S. lawmakers with a keen interest in - not to mention a strong knowledge of - issues related to Korea. Although he’s a U.S. citizen, Faleomavaega has been at the forefront of promoting the rights of Koreans to the international community for some time now.

A representative of the territory of American Samoa in the U.S. Congress and chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Faleomavaega is best known here for bringing up the issue of sexual slavery during World War II to the United Nations.

More than 200,000 women - most of them from Korea and other Asian nations - were forced by the Japanese military to serve at frontline brothels during the war. The international community has repeatedly called on Japan to issue an apology, to no avail. Japan has acknowledged the existence of these women but denies any government involvement. Faleomavaega has actively been involved in Korean issues as of late.

He was here last month as a part of a U.S. congressional delegation introducing the Korean War Veterans Recognition Act, which designates July 27 as National Korean War Armistice Day in the United States. And in July, he announced plans to push to reunite Koreans in the U.S. who are separated from family members in North Korea.

Faleomavaega was also in Korea last week as the keynote speaker at the international symposium of the Korea DMZ Peace Forum. The forum, first held in 2007, seeks to utilize the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas as a tool for environmental conservation as well as political reconciliation efforts.

“What troubles me most about then and now is how willingly the two Koreas have accepted what non-Koreans have defined for them. I fully believe that only Korea can map Korea,” the 66-year-old U.S. lawmaker said in his speech, referring to the demarcation line separating North and South Korea, which was drawn by the United Nations in 1953. “Nature has already taken its stand, marking the DMZ as a treasured ecological site and wildlife sanctuary. From nature, we might learn what the DMZ can become.”

Faleomavaega also told reporters that remaking the DMZ will require dialogue and emphasized that the two Koreas will have to take on more active, leading roles.

“The country that has the greatest influence in North Korea is China. The country that has the greatest influence on South Korea is the U.S. So I believe we should have the U.S., China and the two Koreas in the talks [instead of the six-party framework that includes Japan and Russia].”

He also added that the dialogue should separate the denuclearization issue from inter-Korean relations.

“History has not been kind to the Korean people. Korea was the colony of Japan. Korea was divided by foreign powers.” the U.S. congressman said. “The only [people] that can resolve Korean problems are the Koreans themselves.

“So I make a plea to the Korean people, especially the young generation, to come up with a solution on their own and to be creative.”

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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