What a Democratic House means

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What a Democratic House means


Chae Byung-gun
The author is the international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Before the 2016 presidential election, many said that they would leave the United States, and Korea was one of the destinations. They said they could not bear Donald Trump becoming president. One of them was the Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel. When asked about Trump’s prospect in an interview in September, he said I should tell the Korean readers he would immigrate to Korea if Trump became president, and Koreans should wait for him. I asked him which candidate would be better for Korea, he said I must be joking. The Korean War veteran said that Trump made the United States’ friends abroad not trust the latter.

Five months before this interview, I met with Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly in April. He arrived in an old Camry. He said that if Trump became president, many Americans would move to Korea. He claimed that Trump didn’t understand the Korean Peninsula affairs and what was going on in North Korea. He is a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Korea. He knows many Korean politicians and officials, and understands the Korean Peninsula’s affairs. Representative Rangel was also a member of the Korea Caucus.

I was curious what they were doing in the Trump administration. Two months ago, I read about Rep. Connolly in the media. He was determined to pressure Trump on his North Korea policy. He said that Trump gave international legitimacy to Kim Jong-un without specific promises for denuclearization and that the Trump administration must not forget the past.


U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Democrat, appears on C-SPAN to discuss North Korea’s nuclear threat. [C-SPAN CAPTURE]

In the denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States, a third variable of U.S. domestic politics emerged. The Democratic Party is to become the House majority in January, and it will question the Trump administration in every way. It will not help the talks in two ways. First of all, the Democrats in the House will hinder the Trump administration by holding various hearings and demanding appearances that show the “results” of denuclearization. The second, and more serious, possibility is that the Democratic Party will delay bills and raise allegations, and the White House could lower the priority of the North Korea issue.

Connolly, who said immigration to Korea would increase, is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The latter investigates the administration’s incompetency and policy inconsistencies, and it is seen checking President Trump from early next year. The committee is notorious for issuing having issued more than 1,000 subpoenas in five years to probe alleged scandals and misconduct during the Clinton administration. The chair of the committee at the time was a Republican. Earlier this month, Connolly warned that the committee would investigate the border wall construction, the most notable Trump campaign promise.
After the presidential election, Rangel did not move to Korea. Instead, he retired from politics. While he has left politics, Elijah Cummings worked with Rangel in the Congressional Black Caucus, which opposed Trump during the presidential campaign, and is likely to be the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Both Rangel and Cummings have been chair of the Black Caucus. Issues that Cummings has mentioned for committee review include power abuse, media retaliation, waste of tax money and allegations involving Trump hotels.

Officials and experts visiting Washington are concerned what the House dominated by the Democrats will do with respect to the White House. In the meantime, the denuclearization talks may lose traction from within. Recently, Minister of Reunification Cho Myoung-gyon said that February to March 2019 would be critical. At this juncture, North Korea’s sincerity for denuclearization can be confirmed. If North Korea uses the brinkmanship once again, denuclearization cannot be promised.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 27
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