Enhancing the Presence of DA Overseas and Improving the GOTV Program by Gene Gerth, August 17th, 2019

This article relates to ways used in the past by those of us in Democrats Abroad Korea to implement the above statements. The author of this article, however, is retired US Army, living in Korea, and many of the suggestions presented here require access to military-base facilities located overseas. Let me begin by stating that during my association with DA Korea, it has included times that we were a committee in formation, a fully recognized country committee, and a period of time when the committee seemed to be non-functional. I first became associated with DA in the early years of the Bush II Presidency. At that time DA Korea was in its formative stages. We did however, associate with Republicans Abroad Korea and conducted a few joint projects. The primary one was a joint sponsorship of a forum at a major Seoul Hotel with North Korean defector Kang Chol-Hwan, and author of the book “The Aquariums of Pyongyang”. The forum concerned human rights abuse in North Korea and was attended by several prominent Korean politicians and faculty members from various Korean Universities. However, this sort of cooperation would probably not be available today, due to the Trumpification of the Republican Party. When these events took place the Republican party folks in Korea primarily consisted of honest conservatives, who were interested in debating the issues in a sensible manner, rather than vilifying the opposition as enemies.

With regard to the GOTV program at that time, DA Korea primarily focused on a popular expatriate shopping and bar area nearby a prominent military base in Seoul known as Itaewon (pronounced ee,tay,won). We were able to work with one of the local restaurant owners, who let us use his patio for our voter registration drives. We conducted these drives during weekend to maximize participation and posted many signs throughout Itaewon making reference to the drive. In addition, I also posted one of my business cards on the bulletin board of the on-post food court, which I did receive some response to.

With regard to my association as a life member of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign War), I became good friends with the founder and manager of our local post. I was even able to host a Democrats Abroad Korea meeting in the post facilities during non-business hours. I also placed on the VFW information table located in the post home a copy of the voter registration guide and number of copies of the registration and absentee ballot requests (FPCA)s for use by post members. This section basically concludes my activities while living in Seoul and participating with Democrats Abroad as a committee in formation.

In the Fall of 2006 I retired from my position as a Non-appropriated Funds (NAF) Army employee and moved with my wife to her hometown of Busan. Upon arrival in Busan I was still very interested in maintaining my ties with DA Korea. I, therefore became very active with the Busan Expatriate community here in Busan. I did so by affiliating with groups such as Socrates Cafe and the Vagina Monologues groups. I also began frequenting some of the Expatriate Bars and Cafes in order to meet other folks from the community. As a result of this activity I was able to meet the publisher of a popular expatriate monthly magazine called “Busan Haps.” Its purpose was to inform folks of expat happenings around Busan. After some time, I approached him about publishing some Op-eds in his magazine. He agreed and published several of my articles.* I was also able to post ads for Democrats Abroad in the magazine itself.

In addition to making contacts with various expat groups, I also investigated the possibility of coordinating with nearby military or military-affiliated entities. Besides the military base located at Pier 8 in Busan, there is a place called the “Seamans Club”, which is a restaurant and bar for serving American Seamen who are in port on business. Folks with valid military IDs are also afforded access. To the best of my understanding, there are several of these located at various ports around the world. One was located downtown near the Busan railroad station and another was located near the pier 8 military facility. I was able to befriend the manager (who was also military retired) and even was able to use his facility (the one nearby the Busan station) for an organizational meeting of the Busan chapter of Democrats Abroad and for voter registrations. Because of this relationship I was also able to conduct a voter registration drive one afternoon on a US Navy cargo ship that was in port at the time. When all of this happened, Democrats Abroad ROK had already been recognized as a full country committee. For the voter registrations in his facility I used both the Democrats Abroad logo and the Republicans Abroad logo in my advertisements as to not create any controversy. During this time frame I was also using various expat bars for voter registrations and did not include the Republican logo in those advertisements.

Also, after arriving in Busan I was required to travel to the military base located in Daegu on a regular basis. (My military retired pay, social security, and NAF retired pay are all deposited in the Credit Union located there). On occasions that I traveled there I inquired about the Voting Assistance Officer located there. After establishing her location, I went to the office and visited with her. We became friends and she furnished me with current voter registration guides and the necessary forms for voter registrations (FPCA)s on several occasions. And, here is an unusual effect associated with this. The postmaster at my APO even allowed me to mail out the FPCAs that I had collected during my voter registration drives, even though the return address was not an APO address. Hopefully some of the methods and ways that I was able to (refer to the title of this article) will be useful to other DA overseas committees and personnel. I would like to however, re-emphasize the importance and usefulness of having someone available who has access to the overseas military.

*The first Op-ed was published in September of 2010 entitled “The Tax and Spend Liberal Myth”. Subsequent articles included “Let’s Talk about Health Care” (A defense of the ACA), “What’s Happened to my Parent’s Republican Party?”, The Failure of the Supply Side, or so called Trickle Down Economic Theory”, “Analyzing Private vs Public Enterprise”, “Why You Should Vote” and lastly, “Welcome Back to the Gilded Age and Other Dangers to Democracy” (published in two parts due to the excessive length of the article). The last of which published on August 18th and 25th, 2014. All of the above articles were too long for publication in the print form of the magazine, but were all published on the website www.busanhaps.com. Another article I wrote was entitled “The Big Government and Entitlement Mentality Myths”. However this one, unfortunately was never posted on the website.