A Korean Mayor for Palisades Park?

Christopher Chung, in white shirt and brown tie, celebrating. (Photo via The Korea Times)

[Editor’s update: Christopher Chung won the Democratic primary in the Palisades Park mayoral race after provisional ballots were counted. While Chung’s lead over incumbent Mayor James Rotundo had decreased to just eight votes, Rotundo announced he will not seek a recount. Chung will go on to face Anthony Sambogna (I) and Howard Donovan (R) on Election Day.]

[The Korea Times reported in separate stories this week about the primaries in Palisades Park, New Jersey. A summary follows.]

The election of the first Korean-American mayor in the history of Palisades Park, the town with the largest Korean population in New Jersey, has moved one step closer to coming true.

According to The Korea Times, Councilman Christopher Chung, who won 1,092 votes in the Democratic primary in New Jersey on June 5, scored a mere 18 votes more than incumbent Mayor James Rotundo, who won 1,074 votes.

Charles (Chasoo) Park, a 77-year-old Korean candidate who was also running, won only 65 votes.

While Chung was successful in winning the most votes in a fierce competition with Rotundo, provisional ballots for voters not on the registration list have not been counted. That means the primary victory for the borough councilman has not yet been finalized.

The provisional ballots number 114. The Bergen County Board of Elections may announce results early next week.

Mayor Rotundo is expected to watch the announcement without accepting an election defeat. The possibility of declaring an appeal and requesting a recount is also being considered if the difference in the result of the provisional votes further narrows Chung’s victory.

However, it is expected that many of the provisional votes come from Korean Americans. If Chung’s primary election victory is finalized, he will face Anthony “Willie” Sambogna, a nonpartisan candidate, in the November election.

“I deeply appreciate the Korean supporters who helped me through the election campaign,” said Chung. “I must win the election and keep my pledge to build a new town,” he added.

Two borough council seats in Palisades Park are also open and Jongchul Lee, deputy mayor and incumbent councilman, and Chong Paul Kim, Board of Education trustee, led a field of five with 1,024 and 1,018 votes each.

Barnabas Y. Woo and his running mate Youbong Won-You came in third and fourth. Woo requested a recount on the day after the election.

Also in connection with the primary, Rotundo apologized for a racist Facebook post written by his mother. She charged that Koreans went to the polls “by bus load” and that non-English speaking Koreans were accompanied into the voting booths. In her post she said: “Let the GD KOREANS have this F’n town!!!! All of us AMERICANS are soooooooooo done!!!!!”

Rotundo said: “I’m disgusted with her statement. Let me just put that right out there. I think that was a sick comment to make. It was disgusting. But my mother’s 80 years old.”

The post has since been taken down.

However, politicians and organizations responded immediately.

Dongchan Kim, president of the Korean American Civic Empowerment, said in a statement that “her making allegations that the Koreans conducted illegal elections is really an act of splitting the town in which many races live together,” he said.

Korean organizations have scheduled a June 9 rally on the issue.

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