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"Our" President Obama: Controversial Identity Issue
By Hong Jae-won
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Kim Jeong-hoon, nominee for minister of future creative science has emphasized his affection for the United States on numerous occasions, triggering voices which claim that this can disqualify him as the head of a government ministry. As a man who called President Obama, "our president" two years ago, people are wondering if it is appropriate to appoint him as a cabinet member of the Republic of Korea.

Kim appeared in Korean media on countless occasions and emphasized his patriotism toward the U.S. Some second-generation Korean-Americans voluntarily served in the Korean military despite their exemption from military service, but Kim on the contrary served as an officer in the U.S. military. In a media interview in May 2005, Kim said, "I joined the Navy because I thought [giving] my youth was the only thing I could do for the U.S., which had given me an opportunity [to succeed]."

He also mentioned that he invested $24 million (26 billion won) in the Wizards group, which owns a professional basketball team and a hockey team, and said, "I thought owning a sports club was a way to become an excellent [U.S.] citizen." Kim appeared on a TV program in September 2011 and stressed, "These days, racial discrimination [in the U.S.] has mostly disappeared. Our president is black..."

Kim Jeong-hoon, president of Bell Labs, nominated as the minister of future creative science, gives a lecture with a switch used in optic networks in his hand, at a meeting organized by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel in Samseong-dong, Seoul in 2005. The Kyunghyang Shinmun database



A minister must coordinate the interests of government ministries and various fields and establish an integrated strategy, and some wonder whether Kim is appropriate for the job since he lacks communication skills in Korean. In a lecture organized by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2005, Kim said, "I'm about a 1.7-generation American. I'm not good in Korean and in English, and I've never given a speech in Korean."

He was accompanied by an interpreter at the time, and asked the interpreter to translate some of his words. He is somewhat clumsy in his Korean, mixing English words when he speaks. He spoke in English when giving other lectures and speeches in Korea. However, Kim abruptly applied to recover his Korean nationality at the Ministry of Justice two weeks ago.

It has been known that he is considering giving up his U.S. citizenship. It is not known when exactly he acquired his U.S. citizenship. But given the fact that he is required to be a U.S. citizen in order to serve as an officer on a U.S. nuclear submarine, it appears he already had his citizenship in 1982 when he was 22.All eyes are on why Kim, who has lived at least more than 30 years as a U.S. citizen, suddenly attempted to change his nationality at the age of 53.

Legally, a foreigner can be appointed as a minister of South Korea. However, a foreigner cannot serve in an area related to national security and confidential information. The new Ministry of Future Creative Science will be responsible for the nation's overall science policies and control high-tech information technology and broadcasting infrastructure such as key national communication networks.

The ministry is scheduled to oversee the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission as well, emerging as a dinosaur ministry in control of the management of nuclear power plants. As a ministry overseeing a considerable portion of the nation's key facilities and state-of-the-art technology, it's only natural that people are wondering whether this ministry can be seen as unrelated to national security.

It appears Kim recently applied for Korean citizenship to prepare for such controversy. In other words, he chose a Korean citizenship instead of an American one to head the future ministry. Even if he recovers his Korean nationality, he will not be obligated to serve in the military since he is over 37.

Kim was selected as one of the 400 richest Americans by Forbes in 1998. At the time, his wealth was valued at $560 million (660 billion won). In a survey of the rich under 40 in the United States released by Fortune in 1999, his wealth was valued at $429 million (514 billion won). On the status of his wealth, he met with one media and said, "I don't know the details since I hire a personal financial officer."

Kim is known to be preparing for a confirmation hearing in Seoul. He distributed a press release this day and said, "It is an honor to be appointed as a nominee for the Minister of Future Creative Science, who will realize the creative economic policies of the new government. I feel heavy responsibility and I will work to implement policies that the government has promised the people with a challenging spirit and a serving mind."

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