Myungsuk Lee accuses Liu of splitting Korean vote
By Joe Anuta

A candidate for the Flushing state Assembly seat accused City Comptroller John Liu last week of systematically splitting the Korean community in current and past elections.

Myungsuk Lee, a Korean newspaper owner, held a news conference Aug. 15 claiming he was lured into the election by Liu, only to have the Queens Democratic Party endorse a different candidate in what he contended was a scheme to keep political power in the hands of Chinese candidates.

“The Korean community is very divided,” he said in the basement of a restaurant near the corner of Northern Boulevard and Union Street, adding that there have been calls for him to step down after the party endorsed Ron Kim, a former regional director for government and community affairs under former Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and former associate at The Parkside Group, the go-to consulting firm for the Queens Democratic Party.

Lee provided copies of what he claims are text messages from Liu encouraging him to run.

“He lured me. He made me to run in this election,” Lee said.

Liu’s campaign released a statement indicating he merely offered the newspaper owner support, but ultimately went with the better man.

“Myungsuk is a friend and fellow alumnus from Binghamton University who asked for my advice when he told me he was running for state Assembly. A few weeks later, Ron Kim also informed me he was running,” Liu said in the statement. “After considering the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, I decided to support Ron Kim and will work hard to help Ron get elected to the state Assembly. I wish Myungsuk good luck.”

But Lee contends the comptroller had a hand in Kim’s selection.

Candidates are picked by members of the Democratic Party called district leaders. Two of the four district leaders who selected the Flushing Assembly seat work for Liu, while the other two were not at the meeting where Kim was selected.

“They are all John Liu’s people,” he said.

A spokesman for the party confirmed the two district leaders who do not work for Liu, S.J. Jung and Julia Harrison, were not present, although Jung expressed his approval of Kim via e-mail.

And according to Lee, the comptroller did the same thing three years ago when he supported one Korean candidate, John Choe, when Jung was also running.

“John Liu is Chinese. Flushing is John Liu’s power base. That’s my assumption,” he said when asked why Liu would want to split the vote.

Lee also said a committee of Korean leaders will investigate whether or not Liu purposefully tried to split the vote, and one of the committee’s members spoke at the news conference.

“John Liu needs support from the Korean community when he runs next year,” Sanok Kim, president of the Korean American Senior Association, said through a translator. “He shouldn’t expect it.”

But another leader in the Korean community who did not want to be named was exasperated that Lee would not stand aside after Kim’s endorsement.

“This sets back Korean politics 10 years,” the livid source said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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