Sounding more like a candidate than a lame-duck politician, Gov. George Deukmejian used his first official visit to Koreatown Wednesday to tout his efforts to reduce crime, aid small business and improve trade with Pacific Rim nations.
In a pointed reference to his predecessor, former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Deukmejian took credit for appointing “over 700 common-sense judges” during his tenure in office and signing new laws strengthening criminal penalties. Deukmejian has repeatedly criticized Brown in the past for his judicial appointments, especially that of former Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.
The 200 business leaders, who paid $20 apiece to attend the luncheon with the governor, greeted Deukmejian with a standing ovation but seemed more interested in his presence than the 20-minute speech he gave.
“This is really the first time that a governor has visited Koreatown,” said Edward R. Borcherdt, chairman of the Los Angeles Pusan Sister City Committee. “They’re very excited about it, because it is a recognition of the importance of the Korean-American community in this city and this state.”
Yoon Hee Kim, president of the Korean American Coalition, said the governor’s visit symbolized the emerging political and economic strength of the Korean-American community, whose population has exploded in the last two decades.
An estimated 350,000 to 500,000 Korean-Americans now reside in Southern California, with Los Angeles being home for the largest Korean population outside Asia.
Kim said only in the last six years have Korean-Americans really begun to look at themselves as a community and to register to vote in any numbers. Even so, their voting strength--she estimates it at 25,000--is still relatively small. Kim said their voting patterns appear to be evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
“This is a community whose growth is absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “Now it’s time that the Korean community work with outsiders, but at the same time, we need a real commitment from mainstream politicians. The first and critical thing for us is to bring them down to see the community.”
Deukmejian declined an invitation to tour Koreatown, citing other commitments in his schedule, but Craig Coleman, executive director of the Korea Society, said he had agreed to lend his name to efforts to promote cultural and educational exchanges between Korea and the United States.