Our sad portraitMore than 900 of the 1,000 people who attended the inauguration of Donald Trump were white. Where did this number come from?
“During Obama’s inauguration eight years ago, I got off the metro at 6 a.m., but it took me an hour and 40 minutes to get out of the station,” a friend told me.
So on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, I decided to stay overnight in my office in Washington, D.C. I arrived at the Capitol at 7:30 a.m., but it was still quiet. What was more surprising were the ethnic backgrounds of the people attending the event. They were mostly white. I went back to the Capitol South metro station to see the demographic composition of the 1,000 people. It was quite simple. There were few minorities.
What I wanted to see was whether the Asian-Americans attending the event reflected their share in the population, 5.6 percent. In fact, the answer could be found on the eve of the ceremony. On Jan. 19, the Asian Pacific American Inaugural Gala was held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Some 500 people of Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian, Filipino and Japanese descent gathered. Notable politicians and businessmen went on stage and advocated the power of their ethnic group in the United States. There were only a handful of Korean attendees, as the Korean-American community mostly supported Hillary Clinton in the race.
When I asked an Indian guest in his 50s at my table whether Indian-Americans had supported Trump, he smiled and said, “I am not sure who they support, but we give equal donations to both sides.” He emphasized that they were not inclined toward one side. A 40-something Chinese-American lawyer sitting on the other side said, “Of course. Look at how the Jewish people have done in America. They are very powerful and frighteningly thorough. Chinese people model after them.”
So most other Asian-American groups made a clever bet. It is no coincidence that Asian-American attendance in the inauguration reflected the demographic composition.
The Republican-hosted event for Asian-Americans on Jan. 21 was dominated by Indian, Taiwanese and Chinese-Americans. When Ed Royce, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, shouted, “Nikki Haley,” referring to Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Indian-American attendees cheered. When he said, “Elaine Chao,” the transportation secretary nominee, Taiwanese guests went wild. All Korean-Americans were simply sending polite applause because there is not a single secretary, ambassador or senator of Korean descent.
There are about two million Korean-Americans, similar to Indian, Chinese (including Taiwanese) and Vietnamese populations. In Congress, there are five members of Indian descent, four of Japanese descent, two of Chinese descent and one of Vietnamese, Filipino, Taiwanese and Thai descent. There has been none of Korean descent for 18 years since former Rep. Jay Kim, whose Korean name is Kim Chang-joon.
While Korean-Americans take pride in their economic and educational superiority, their political influence is less than that of the Vietnamese-American community. In the last congressional elections, including for the Senate and House, not a single candidate with a Korean background ran for a seat. There are no “stars” who can wield influence in politics, either.
Ado Machida is a Japanese-American who had influence in Trump’s transition team. Machida had worked as a lobbyist for the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Since 2007, he has been serving as president of the Japanese lobbying company, the Kaizen Strategy Group. He reportedly helped set up policy blueprints for 14 areas, including trade, energy and regulatory reform.
In the meantime, he had strategic meetings with the Japanese Embassy in Washington and with companies. It is quite obvious what they discussed. Machida placed another Japanese-American to oversee defense and security in the transition team, areas where the Japanese government is most sensitive about. He also arranged the connection between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
The goal of public diplomacy is to bring around more people on our side. But what’s more important is nurturing and utilizing those who are on our side. But we haven’t raised people like Jay Kim. Why? Trump and Koreans have one thing in common: bashing others. This is one chronic vice that Koreans need to change.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 24, Page 30
*The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.