Jay Kim was the first Korean-American Congressman, serving from 1993-1999. He recently came to Puerto Rico and after semi-obligatory visits in Old San Juan, the rain forest and even stiff-limbed salsa "dancing", he blogged about his impressions of My Island. I've taken excerpts of his post, and lest I be accused of taking them out of context, read the post here. [15 Aug 2011: See Update below.]
" " You got the population right, but the real unemployment figure is over 27%, while the (non)government reports somewhere around 16%. As for Our income per capita, your own CIA World Reports it is closer to $11,000 than $7,000. Now I know those numbers are awful, but they are real. Most of Us know them; you and your fellow Americans by and large don't. Your ignorance, not Mine.
" " I understand, Mr. Kim, that you are a civil engineer. Kudos. But may I suggest you leave anthropological musings to much better-qualified people? And as for pithiness, may I suggest Confucius?
" " First of all, how many citizenships can the U.S. of part of A. offer anyone? Okay, maybe that was a typo. Happenss. But as for Puerto Ricans and U.S. citizenship, We have been so since the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917. Now I'm firmly in the corner of those people who expect politicians to be about as well-informed as dry moss, but engineers are known for their meticulous attention to detail. Careless engineers are only so once...or should be. Mr. Kim, you were careless here.
" " You echo a point I've made before concerning potential U.S. of part of A. interest in granting statehood to Puerto Rico: there is no economic upside anymore. You merely confirm that point of view. But you equate "natural resources" only with what you can extract from the ground or ocean and ignore the natural resource that is people. Furthermore, We have special manufacturing resources, as Our (albeit weakened) pharmaceutical industry can attest (still Top 5 in the world), and if We don't have these special manufacturing resources, and We are a U.S. of part of A. territory subject to its dominion, then whose fault is it? Careless again, Mr. Kim. No good.
" " May I quote Mark Twain to you, Mr. Kim? Thank you. "Lies, damn lies and statistics." The graduation rate in Puerto Rico is slightly over 41% if you take into account all incoming freshmen or slightly over 27% if you take into account all young adults between the ages of 18-26. It is not 18% unless you play with numbers or you listen to a liar. You didn't play with the numbers, so you listened to a liar. Keep that in mind. As for Us "depending primarily on tourism," you are again in the wrong. Our largest industries are pharmaceutical, banking and retail services. Tourism is important, but you imply it is a "primary" revenue source, as if insinuating We'd be scrabbling for crumbs if it weren't for visitors coming to look at Our poverty and lack of natural resources. It ain't so, Mr. Kim.
" " Something tells Me you weren't paying much attention to the debate if what you think was most important to Congress was a star or editing documents. The true issues were economic, as in "Puerto Rico's impact on the national budget" and, for Republicans, the fear that 4 million "potential Democratic votes" would tilt the fine two-party balance y'all enjoy up there. (I'm being sarcastic when I say "fine two-party balance." The rest is plain factual.) If you choose to ignore the deeper economic and even racial issues that the debate touched upon, that's your choice. But note that in doing so you are trivializing the larger issue of what We as a nation should do. As We shall see...
" " Ignorance is bliss, Mr. Kim. Having not walked an inch in Our shoes, any blowhard can say whatever they want to from their piehole. Is independence better than "living under the control of other powerful countries"? I say yes. So why haven't the "many members" of this and previous Congresses (some of which you belonged to, Mr. Kim) not simply given it to Us? It's so easy to sit there and pontificate on what you don't know. I guess that's why you ran for Congress...
" " Fuck you, Jay. You don't know shit about the thinking We have. I don't mind you being a patriotic Korean and believing that your people would (almost) unanimously vote for independence. But let me point out that your country was annexed--taken over--by Japan and lived with that status until other more powerful nations gave you your country back, albeit in a mutant form. That your people, your so very independent people, accepted living as subjects of a foreign nation is, I guess, the sort of thinking people who live on a lumpy phallus of land would have.
" " At the risk of repeating Myself, fuck you. Your people may have died for independence--some of Mine have as well--but you were given your independence. If you want to lord the idea that you have independence and We don't, go ahead, but don't go throwing rocks when you live in a glass house someone else built for you. And as for listening to statehooders, to quote Adam Savage, "Well, there's your problem right there!"
"... " As if the notion of Us becoming a state were actually within the realm of possibility for the American public...
Mr. Kim, you have every right to your opinion. You have every right to express that opinion in whatever forum you can reach. You even have the right to be uninformed and careless with your opinions...as long as you can get away with it. In this case, your ignorance, carelessness and blather are being called on the carpet. Stick to your neck of the woods and, unless you really step up your game, stay the hell out of Mine.
The Jenius Has Spoken.
[Update: 15 August 2011: It came to My attention that Kim-Chi Breath deleted the post I make reference to above. Indeed. Here's another site that has the complete post. And just to make sure Kim-Passe doesn't try to hide his ignorance again and again and again (the article is also deleted from the Korea Times archive), here's the text of his post, under a Korea Times banner:
Impressions from a trip to Puerto Rico
By Jay Kim
I visited Puerto Rico for a week in late September as a former U.S. Congressman. Puerto Rico is an island located near Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Its population is 4 million, and the country is relatively poor economically with an 18 percent unemployment rate and a $7,000 per capita income.
It is always hot and humid throughout the year there (the winters are just a little less hot), making the climate intolerable for those who grew up in a continental climate like Korea’s.
Like any tropical island, the people of Puerto Rico seem laid-back and not tough and hardheaded; perhaps this is because rushing does not lead anywhere but to the surrounding sea.
A Spanish colony for almost 400 years since Columbus discovered it in 1493; the 1898 victory of the U.S. in the Spanish-American War made it a U.S. territory. Hundreds of years of exploitation by European countries have made the native people of the island almost extinct.
In April 2000, the U.S. decided to give citizenship to people born in Puerto Rico. This was an odd decision, since from the U.S.’s perspective Puerto Rico has neither natural resources nor any special manufacturing resources.
Also, the nation’s education level is not high (18 percent college graduation rate), and the country depends primarily on tourism resources pumped in by the hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S.
There was some claiming that Puerto Rico would not be a boon to the U.S. economy, leading to debates in Congress over what to do with the island. In 1993, when I was a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, there was a referendum to decide the status of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans were offered three choices: become an independent country, become the 51st U.S. state, or maintain its current status as a U.S. territory.
Leading up to the referendum, Congress expected the people of Puerto Rico would overwhelmingly vote to become the 51st state of the U.S.; this led some members of Congress to voice concerns about the budget to add a star to the national flag, to rewrite an amendment to the Constitution, and to revise textbooks.
Many members also said that they could not understand why Puerto Ricans would be opposed to becoming an independent country after nearly 500 years of living under the control of other powerful countries.
However, the result of the referendum was that Puerto Ricans chose to maintain their current status and remain a U.S. territory.
The generally stated rationale was that there was no reason for the island to change its status since they received every benefit a U.S. citizen has, with the added benefit of not having to pay taxes to the U.S. government.
That’s just the sort of thinking the people of a tropical island would have. Had it been Korea, the choice of independence would receive almost 100 percent of the votes.
During my recent trip, I attended a dinner with the governor of Puerto Rico, lunch with the mayor of its capital, San Juan, in the City Hall, and a cocktail party with the speaker of the House.
All of these political leaders seemed to support statehood. My impression was that their stance was based on personal interests, i.e. breaking into American politics; for them, being a major politician on the island alone is not satisfying.
If Puerto Rico was to become a U.S. state, they would be allocated two seats in the Senate and seven in the House of Representatives, and those men would have a pretty good chance to win those seats.
We as Koreans, many of whom have died for our independence, can hardly understand the thinking of those that believe that comfort from being another country’s territory is better than protecting one’s own country.
The U.S. currently has four territories other than Puerto Rico ― American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital. Each of them, from Puerto Rico with a population of 4 million to Samoa with a population of 660,000, has only one elected representative to the U.S. Congress.
These five representatives are treated as equal to any other U.S. Congressman and can become a chairman of a standing committee, but don’t have a vote in a plenary session.
In the U.S. Congress, these representatives are called “delegates,” or “resident commissioner” in Puerto Rico. For example, Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate from Samoa, is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
He is well known for being pro-Korea, and has frequently visited Korea as the chair of the subcommittee. Unfortunately, he does not have a final voting right on the House floor.
Another referendum on the status of Puerto Rico is expected around next year. Most Democrats in Congress agree that Puerto Rico should be the 51st state, but opposition from the Republicans is not easy to deal with, making the outcome hard to predict.
Unfortunately, the FBI’s recent arrest of 80 Puerto Rican police officers for drug trafficking, broadcast live on TV, surprised the American public. I believe that, all the more due to this event, it will be difficult for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state of the U.S. ]