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Local Politicians Press to Win Korean-American Vote

Candidates stress relief for small businesses, opportunities for immigrants and family values.

Dozens of candidates for public office gathered in Fairfax Thursday night to try and win votes from within the Korean-American community.

Often starting out with a greeting in Korean, the candidates by and large stressed the importance of relief for small businesses, family values, opportunities for immigrants and access to better education while speaking to a packed audience during the . 

The event, held at Luther Jackson Middle School, was the first of its kind in Northern Virginia. Over 30 organizations cosponsored the event and candidates for the House of Delegates, Senate, Fairfax County School Board and Board of Supervisors spoke. The forum reflected the region's changing demographics: about 18 percent of Fairfax County is of Asian descent, and over 41,000 people are Korean, according to the 2010 Census. In some areas the percentage is much higher. Many of the people in the audience were small business owners—an attractive vote to win for politicans of both parties. 

Moderator Michael Kwon, vice-president of the association, asked questions that were prepared in advance but kept secret from the candidates. He grilled several on their knowledge of issues important to many Korean-Americans. Others, he asked how they would reach out to the community.

"You have been almost totally absent from the Korean-American community over the past four years," Kwon said to  (D-35th district), asking the senator if he would stay in touch. 

"This is the first time I've been invited to a Korean-American event, ever," said Saslaw, who attended a town hall hosted by the association last spring and whose website cites a certificate of appreciation from the Korean-American Association. He said he would stay in touch and asked the community to do the same for him. 

Most candidates tried to demonstrate some ties to the community. School board candidate , who told the audience, "I owe my life to the Korean people." As a child living in Korea, she fell out of a window and was saved by people passing by, she said. 

Sen.  (D-34th district) scattered Korean words throughout his opening remarks and talked about how he worked for a free trade agreement with Korea and pushed for a new GMU overseas campus. , who is running for delegate in the 37th district, said that his wife is an immigrant from Cyprus and he understands the value of hard work: "I'm sitting on the stage because I am living the American dream." School board candidate  said that he worked during college to bring more Korean and East Asian language classes to the UVA curriculum. 

At times, the questions became quite specific. At-large school board candidates were asked if they would support a change to the county's textbooks to include the Korean name for the "Sea of Japan." In the Korean community it is known as the "East Sea of Korea." The candidates were only allowed to answer yes or no. All said yes, with the exception of . They were also asked if they supported expansion of the Korean language program outside of ; all said yes.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referenced who saved Sheree Brown-Kaplan's life.  

Abraham October 02, 2011 at 11:43 PM
This was the best organized candidate forum I've seen in many years (kudos for the koreans!) and had the sharpest questions for the candidates. You could tell that the moderator was prepared. By the way, it was delegate david bulova who "worked for a free trade agreement with Korea and pushed for a new GMU overseas campus." Chap Petersen could not say anything significant when asked what he had done for the korean americans since he uses his korean family connection for huge fundraisers in the korean community. and saslaw's reply was lame. a good politician should reach out instead of blaming that he was not invited. so lame! time for a change!
Lin-Dai Kendall October 03, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Hi Let me provide a quick qualification to my No response to the "Sea of Japan" question which asked if we would consider changing it for Korean Sea. There are international conventions followed by cartography, history and archiving organizations to certify/approve/research data in history books. A scientific need for accurate, stable (standardized) and internationally-accepted systems for naming places (toponymy) around the world has generated many formal nomenclatural systems. This provides for our text books to be well documented and accurate. This request should not be presented to the School Board for approval but to the proper institutions that may carry out adequate and substantiated research to decide the correct nomenclature prior to printing it in our TEXT BOOKS. This was a bit of a gotcha question if you ask me…=( Lin-Dai Kendall
Lin-Dai Kendall October 03, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Did any one notice that Gerarda Culipher, a qualified and dynamic candidate running for the 34th State Senate District against Mr. Petersen's was missing from this panel? And to Abraham's point, she did make a point of reaching out and making sure she was recognized and at least named prior to the event starting.....kudos Gerarda!
Mary Stachyra Lopez October 03, 2011 at 02:05 AM
Abraham, I just wanted to clarify here that both Chap Petersen and David Bulova talked about the free trade agreement and the GMU campus. I was also impressed with the candidate forum. The moderator was certainly not afraid to ask some difficult and pointed questions. Considering the dozens of candidates that attended, they were able to keep things moving along very quickly as well. I'm looking forward to the next forum.
Will Radle October 03, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Please review my blog on Patch about this event: http://fairfaxstation.patch.com/blog_posts/moment-at-debate-thoughts-of-seasonal-celebration

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