Korea Aids Katrina Victims?
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Update, Nov. 14 - three weeks after this story was published Todd and Song-suk finally received some of the aid promised by the Korean government. We wish them well in their recovery efforts.

Sept. 7, 2005 - In a weekly press briefing, Ban Ki-moon, Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, says, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recognized at an early stage that the seriousness of the damages from Hurricane Katrina would be unprecedented, and dispatched a rapid response team consisting of officials from Headquarters and overseas missions on September 2. Our team has set up emergency countermeasure offices in Houston and Baton Rouge, close to the areas hard hit by the catastrophic hurricane, to collect information on damages inflicted on Koreans there and to protect any Korean victims."

He then went on to say, "The Government plans to provide a $30 million rescue package raised both at the government and civic levels, to help recovery efforts in regions hit by Hurricane Katrina." Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website, Sept. 7 press briefing

Sept. 15, 2005 - In an address to the Korea Society annual dinner in New York, Korean President Roh Moo-hyun says, "my prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and I convey my deepest sympathies to the American people and, in particular, to the families who lost their loved ones. The government and the people of Korea will be unstinting in reaching out with whatever help is needed for the swiftest possible recovery." Cheongwadae website, Remarks at Korea Society 2005 Dinner
View from New Orleans, Oct. 22
by Todd Huddleston and Kim Song-suk*

My wife and I left New Orleans at 1:30am Sunday before the hurricane hit Monday.  Originally we planned on going to the town where I went to college, but since all radio broadcasts indicated that there were no hotel rooms in all the state of LA we decided to go to Houston. There, we were lucky enough to get invited to stay at a friend’s house, which wound up being a godsend. We had planned to leave only for a few days, thinking that the hurricane would pass and be done with. Who knew however that 80% of the city of New Orleans would be flooded and devastated?

As one could imagine, we were glued to the TV set and the Internet trying to find out information on our home and business. I received hundreds of emails during the hurricane from friends and family wondering how we were making out. One of those emails was from a Korean-American immigration lawyer friend of mine who resides in San Francisco. He stated in his email that the president of Korea had just gone on the news and stated that Korea would help all displaced Korean citizens of New Orleans. He suggested that I call the nearest Korean Consulate (in Houston) to find out how they could help my wife and I.  My wife called first. No luck. Some very rude woman who worked at the consulate said they could not help us.

Thinking that perhaps my wife did not have the panache to get things done, I decided to call. When I called, I decided to speak English, not Korean, since I thought this would have more success. I managed to get through to an American that worked there who said he did not know of any help they could offer but he would connect me to the Consulate General, a guy named Mr. Ku. Mr. Ku could not speak English at all, so I switched to Korean. After his shock of, “oh my god you speak Korean really well!” I told him who we were and why we were in Houston and that we heard that the Korean Government was going to help those Koreans who were affected by the hurricane. Well, Mr. Ku of course did not have any knowledge of any help that the Korean government was offering. He then took down my wife’s name and phone number and said that he would call us back. HE HAS NEVER CALLED TO FOLLOW UP ON US. I guess that Koreans don’t care about their own . . .

My wife’s friend, a Ms. Shin, evacuated along with eight other families to the Korean community in Los Angeles. There she had a similar experience. Ms. Shin states that when she was in L.A. the Korean association boasted of how they were going to help the displaced victims at a formal ceremony where representatives of the Chosun Il-bo (a major Korean daily) and other Korea media took notes and interviewed victims.

However, when it came time to help, they (the Korean association) declined. A specific example of that is one of the Koreans that had fled to L.A. unfortunately had their car break down soon after they arrived there. During the previous mentioned 'dog and pony show' that family was told they would get assistance with their car. When the family called for help they were ignored. Ms Shin did get some help from a businessperson who runs a coffee shop there. He gave her $500 and then he said he would contact other businesses to see if they could contribute to this problem. Well this took place right around the Korean holiday of Chusok Soon after, the Korean association of Los Angeles found out that someone other than them was trying to help those they had “promised” to help. Of course they didn’t want to lose face so they then, out of the blue, called all those they had promised to help and said they wanted to give each of them $1000. Unfortunately, Ms. Shin had already gone home back to New Orleans. Despite being over a 1000 miles away, they wanted her to fly out to L.A. so she could attend the special ceremony they had set up to “show” they were actually helping those displaced hurricane victims.  Since a ticket to L.A. would be more than $1000, Ms Shin declined to fly back out there since she would actually lose money. Ms Shin then asked if they could mail the money to her and they said no. Supposedly after some time, they agreed to mail it, but Ms Shin has yet to see any money. The mail is slow here in N.O. now, but . . .

Another interesting story happened right here in Louisiana. People in Korea felt sorry for those Koreans in New Orleans who were affected by the hurricane. I was told that food and supplies were sent to Louisiana via our capital of Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, Koreans here in New Orleans haven’t received any of this. This is because the Koreans who live in Baton Rouge, who were not affected by the hurricane, decided to take everything for themselves. I guess all that watching of the hurricane coverage on TV caused emotional damage and stress, therefore making them victims of the hurricane as well.


Todd Huddleston and his wife, Kim Song-suk, own, operate and instruct at the Yonsei Martial Arts Academy (currently under renovation from the severe damage suffered during the hurricane and its aftermath) in New Orleans. Song-suk was the 1992 Korean National Taekwondo Champion and formerly number-one ranked 'female taekwondo fighter' in the world. She received a medal from former Korean President Kim Young-sam, "for her efforts in the development of taekwondo nationally and worldwide."

Todd trained in and helped teach taekwondo at Yonsei University in Seoul for eight years. He was a 1992, 1993, 1995 (overall tournament MVP), and 1996 Ambassador's Cup (tournament in Seoul for overseas taekwondo competitors) Taekwondo Gold Medallist.

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