Korean-Americans Win Elections in NJ

Korean Americans were elected to the governing councils of two New Jersey towns in the legislative elections held on Nov. 8.

Gloria Oh (D) became the first Korean-American councilmember of Englewood Cliffs with 1121 votes. Joon L. Chung (I) was elected to the city council of Harrington Park with 912 votes.

Their victories increase the number of Korean American councilmembers in New Jersey to six, including two in Palisades Park, one in Leonia and one in Cherry Hill.

Oh won the most votes among the eight candidates in her borough, including the mayoral candidates. In Englewood Cliffs, the slate of Democratic candidates swept the borough elections.

“I thank all the people who supported me all the way,” said Oh. “As the first Korean elected to the Council, I will do my best to serve as a bridge between the Korean-American community and the other ethnic communities, and listen to their voices to improve the quality of living.”

The town, which has a Democratic mayor and a Republican-controlled council, has been criticized for lack of communication.

Oh, who moved to Englewood Cliffs in 1997, was elected the first Korean-American president of the Greater Fort Lee Chamber of Commerce last year.

Attributing her victory to her exposure to two languages and cultures, she also said she will keep her promise to hire more Korean American police officers.

Meanwhile, Chung promised that tax reduction will be her first priority when she takes office in Harrington Park. She moved to the town in 1983, and has led a number of projects in the school district. She served as president of the Korean American PTA for two years.

Harrington Park politics is dominated by Caucasians. According to Chung, the number of Korean voters is about 100.

“I thank the Korean American voters, most of whom registered to vote for me,” said Chung. “I will work hard to reduce the tax burden on taxpayers, especially by getting more subsidies from the state or county.”

Philip Choi, councilmember of Leonia, failed to win the mayorship of his town. He is first first-generation Korean American to run for the position in New Jersey. To do so, he created the Community First Party to run on a slate with two town council candidates. He garnered 724 votes, far fewer than his Democratic competitor John DeSimone who racked up 1397. Choi still has one more year to serve for the Council.

Barbara Cho, who ran for mayor of Norwood as an independent, was beaten by her Republican opponent 919 to 167. Republican New Jersey Senator Kevin O’Toole, also a Korean American, was re-elected.

In the tightly contested race in Bergen County, Democrats swept all the county-wide elections Tuesday. David Ganz and Joan Vos won freeholder seats with 46,875 and 48,129 respectively, but their victories do nothing to change the balance of power in the Republican-dominated freeholder board, where the party ratio is 5-2.

In the contest for surrogate, three-term incumbent Michael Dressler (D) easily defeated his GOP opponent Andrew Cimiluca for the court that oversees probate of wills and the appointment of guardians and estate administrators.

Democratic candidates for the state legislature struck back and fought off well-funded Republican challenges and gained one seat. Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson won reelection in their districts on Tuesday.

In Fort Lee and Ridgefield Park, mostly populated with Korean Americans, incumbent Mayors Mark Sokolich and Anthony Suarez defeated their Republican challengers.

In New York, incumbent District Attorney Richard Brown of Queens won without opposition.

Some of the towns mentioned in the article


With additional information from Korea Daily, both in Korean:

Interview with Gloria Oh (11/8)
Joon Chung elected councilmember (11/9)

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