The ICAS Lectures


Remarks in Honor of Dr. Chong Moon Lee

Victor Cha

ICAS Annual Liberty Award Dinner

December 3, 2010
Kennedy Caucus Room
Senate Office Building Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Biographic sketch & Links: Victor Cha

Remarks in Honor of Dr. Chong Moon Lee

Victor Cha
Korea Chair
Center for Strategic and International Studies

One thing that I’ve learned in these sorts of events, when you follow such gracious comments like that, and the person following you is your boss, Dr. Hamre, I won’t be up here very long.

The first thing I would like to do is apologize because we were a little bit delayed in terms of the dinner because we had to go back and get something, Chong Moon Lee and I, so I apologize for that. Let me just say that I was very honored to be asked by Sang Joo and Synja to come to this dinner tonight and to say a few words about Chong Moon Lee. We have not known each other very long, but in the time that we’ve known each other, it’s been a very intense and for me very enlightening and fruitful experience to know this man. Our interaction really was a result of work that both he and Dr. Hamre did in creating the first Korea Chair, Korea-specific program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the first endowed Korea program at a major U.S. think tank ever, largely through the work of these two gentlemen at the table, and I personally am very, very grateful for that.

As Mark said, I too have had many conversations with Chong Moon about all sorts of issues in terms of international relations and international politics – about the role of China, the future of the U.S./ Korea relationship, about Japan/Korea relations. And I travel in a fairly academic crowd, and Chong Moon puts them all to shame. I mean, he really has very interesting ideas about how to think about Asia, about how to think about the U.S. place in Asia, and I have learned a great deal from him in the time that I’ve spent with him.

But I think in terms of this evening, perhaps my value-added in talking about this man is really as a Korean-American. I think Korean-Americans have a very special experience here in the United States. They’re generally known to be over-achievers. They’re generally over-educated, and they’re constantly striving to do better. I think for many Korean-Americans they’re constantly striving to do better for themselves, but there aren’t any real role models out there. Sure, there are people who are great lawyers, or great businessmen, or even great politicians. But there are very few people that you can look at and say, "This person as a Korean-American has made a contribution to academia in his work and lectures on innovation; who has clearly made a contribution in the arts which we’re all aware of in San Francisco and around the world; who has made a contribution here in Washington in terms of helping us to think in a very independent and non-partisan fashion about issues related to the United States and Korea."

And then finally I think for me personally, I see him as somebody who I think all of us, and I’m speaking for my children too, should really think about as a true role model for what Korean-Americans are trying to achieve. We’re all working very hard to try to do better, but in the broader scheme of things when we look back and see what sorts of things do we want to accomplish in life, this man is a real role model. And for that reason I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to say a few words with regard to him.

I want to congratulate you tonight on this very prestigious award and I look forward to spending more time with you and talking about the future of Asia.

Thank you very much.

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