Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Yet Another Yellow Scare

These are the headlines: "Seoul spy sought Kerry election role," "Korean Diplomat Reportedly Raised Illegal Funds for Kerry," "Korean spy met with Kerry fund-raisers," "Kerry Fund-Raisers, S. Korean Spy Met," etc.

These stories have been prompted by the "revelation" that Chung Byung-Man, a South Korean consular officer in Los Angeles, worked for South Korea's National Intelligence Service. Earlier this year, Chung approached David K. Lee and Rick Yi, both Kerry fundraisers, about forming a Korean-American political advocacy group similar to Committee 100, a Chinese-American group. Both Lee and Yi declined, and shortly after, Chung was recalled to South Korea.

Lee did not detect any nefarious agenda. "Whatever agenda that he had, whether it was political or personal or governmental, I really don't know . . . . I just thought the most basic assumption for me was that he was doing something good for the community."

Yi, however, found it odd. Yi had met Chung when Chung worked in Atlanta, and he had asked Chung to introduce him around the Korean-American community in Los Angeles. Chung had never been involved in his fundraising efforts. After Chung approached him about forming the group, he recalled asking Chung, "Is this appropriate for a diplomat to do?"

The upshot: Even if Chung did try to influence the election, his attempts clearly failed. Neither Lee nor Yi pursued his suggestions, nor did they involve him in their fundraising efforts.

These stories have also recalled a second story, also involving Rick Yi, but otherwise unrelated to this story.

Earlier this year, Yi had solicited two donations totaling $4,000 from Chun Jae Yong, his parnter at his database security company, OR Solutions, and Chun's girlfriend, Sang Ah Park. After he contributed, Chun was arrested in South Korea for tax evasion, and after the Kerry campaign became aware of this, the campaign returned his contribution. According to Yi, although the contribution was legal, "we decided to give the money back when we found out he was less than honorable." The campaign also returned the contribution from Park, saying that they could not immediately verify that she was a permanent resident.

Yi resigned from the Kerry campaign after this episode. Of the $100,000 Yi had raised for Kerry and the $400,000 he had raised for other Democrats, none has proven suspect.

The upshot: Gotcha! Journalism - Yi was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Brief biography of Rick Yi, from what I could glean from Lexis-Nexis: Yi is a naturalized U. S. citizen born in South Korea. He is a former U. S. Army colonel, and he served in the Clinton Administration as a military communications officer. At the time, he was responsible for carrying the "nuclear football," a briefcase holding the launch codes for our nuclear arsenal. After he retired from the military in 1998, he moved to Atlanta, where he became active in the Democratic Party. He has since become one of the Democratic Party's top fundraisers.

The upshot: Obviously, this man cannot be trusted.

Overall, this appears to be nothing more than another Yellow Scare, dutifully reported by the media and gleefully pushed by the usual suspects at Men's News Daily, Blogs for Bush, Captain's Quarters, etc., all of whom are eager to replay the same false drama we witnessed a few years back, the facts and the racist subtext be damned.

Sources:

From "Kerry Fund-Raiser Resigns After the Return of a Contribution" by Robert F. Worth in The New York Times on July 3, 2004.

From "Kerry took questionable donation" by John Solomon and Sharon Theimer in The Boston Globe on June 21, 2004.

From "Cash and Kerry put local man on stage; Alpharettan solicited ill-starred donation" by Matthew C. Quinn in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 22, 2004.

From "Kerry returns check to donor facing tax evasion charges" by Robert F. Worth in The New York Times on June 22, 2004.