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Visiting North Korea

To the Editors:

I am writing in reference to a feature article entitled “A Visit to North Korea” by Suki Kim [NYR, February 13]. The essay covers her weeklong visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in February 2002. While presenting her views on various aspects of the trip in great detail, however, she regrettably wrote only a little about the Korean American National Coordinating Council (KANCC), selective enough to give readers a biased view of the group which had arranged her trip to North Korea in the first place.

First of all, the KANCC, registered under the “Not-For-Profit-Corporation Law” of the State of New York, is not a pro–North Korean revolutionary-type organization as implied by her descriptions of some KANCC members who accompanied her. Besides, Mr. Yoo is only the head of the KANCC East region, one of three regional groups which constitute the KANCC nationwide.

The KANCC, founded in January 1997, is a united coalition of local chapters and individuals within Korean-American communities who agree with the objectives and the bylaws of the KANCC despite their differences of ideology, political view, religion, social class, and strata. It aims to achieve four basic objectives as follows: (1) to advocate basic civil rights and the interests of US citizens and residents of Korean descent as a minority ethnic group in American society; (2) to keep self-identity and raise pride as a Korean-American by maintaining and developing Korean ethnic culture in American society; (3) to raise the status of the Korean-American community as a whole in American society by promoting friendship and cooperation with other ethnic groups in the multiethnic American society and promoting their better understanding of Korean national culture; (4) to make a contribution toward the peaceful and independent reunification of Korea on the basis of “Great National Unity.”

Regarding major programs and activities of the KANCC, I’d like to point out our premise that for reconciliation of the divided Korean nation, we intend to be a bridge between the Korean-American community and Korea, particularly North Korea, in terms of better mutual understanding and awareness. So we promote and arrange various exchange programs including family reunions, exchange visits by musicians, artists, scholars, students, and religious groups as well as humanitarian aid to the North. For more details, please visit our Web site at www.kancc.org.

It is truly unfortunate that the KANCC was grossly misrepresented in Suki Kim’s essay due to her selective descriptions of it.

Rev. S. Michael Hahm
Chairman, KANCC
New York City

Suki Kim has replied to this letter as follows:

I am very grateful to your organization, the KANCC, for arranging my 2002 trip to North Korea. I regret that you feel I have misrepresented the KANCC in my article, which was a truthful and accurate account of everything I witnessed. Despite subsequent efforts made by your organization to suppress further publication of the article, I intend to remain loyal to my ethics as a writer and as a citizen of the United States, where freedom of speech is a given right.

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