Candidate for governor says background can bring change

John Lim, a legislator from the Gresham area who has announced he is running for governor, wants to attract business and jobs to Oregon and find a place for Oregon in international trade.

“We need to change the state government, and I am going to bring the change,” said Lim, a 73-year-old Republican, on a visit to The New Era office on Oct. 28.

An unemployment rate at 12 percent is unacceptable, he said. Per capita income is 2 percent lower than the national average, he said, and that is also unacceptable.

“I cannot accept the status quo,” he said. “We need a new direction, a new governor and new leaders.”

Lim has served three terms in the state Senate and two terms in the state House, representing a strongly Democrat area, he said. He ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 1990 to get his name out.

In 1992, he ran for Senate District 11 and won 60 percent of the vote to become the first first-generation Korean American to serve in any state senate in the nation, he said. As a legislator, he worked on the public welfare system, tort reform, minority rights, international trade and many other issues.

Along with the general health of the economy, he is concerned about funding education, he said. The economy cycles up and down, but the state is unable to provide stable funding for education.

To mitigate those cycles, the state needs a strong reserve fund, Lim said. Taxes are not the answer though.

“We need to change the perception of the state,” he said, adding that taxes passed by the legislature and governor this year and referred to voters in a January election are ill-timed.

It is not time to raise taxes on businesses and people while they are struggling with bills, payments and mortgages, he said. It makes Oregon look like a tax state instead of creating the image of a lean, effective government with good management.

As a member of state economic development committees for more than 10 years and an executive board member with the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, he believes he has the expertise necessary.

“I know the issues,” he said. “I know what it takes to bring the economy back.”

The state must focus on bringing back international trade, Lim said. It must work with struggling businesses rather than asking them to pay more.

“We need to make the economic picture bigger,” he said. Keys to that include improving the quality of life and tax incentives, helping draw environmentally friendly high-tech firms.

Cutting the red tape will help, he said. He hears many people complain about trying to open a business €“ and Oregon is a small business state. They must talk to a variety of agencies, and the process can take a month, six months or a year.

“We need government, but we need less government,” Lim said. “Nowadays people feel like they’re working for the government. It should be the other way around.”

He thinks his election would play well around the world too.

“With my leadership, it’ll send a strong message, not only nationally but internationally,” Lim said, pointing out that he would be the only Asian governor in the nation. It would demonstrate Oregon as a place of opportunity €“ equal opportunity.

That would send a positive message to Asia and would likely draw investment from out of the state, he said.

He sees himself continuing where the last Republican governor, Vic Atiyeh, left off 24 years ago, he said. “I’m going to carry his tradition in the area of international leadership. We are living in a global age, and we should be able to compete around the world.

While talking about statewide issues, he is busy stumping through small towns and rural areas.

“Many counties say that they are left out,” he said. “I want to make sure it doesn’t happen that way.”

He supports harvesting forests, he said. He supports logging areas damaged by fire and sustainable 50-year cycles to harvest timber.

“We should be able to utilize that land and that timber,” Lim said. He is strong on the environment, but “at the same time, we should be able to use the timber as a renewable resource. The spotted owl is important, but we need to understand humans and jobs are more important. What’s quality of life if there’s no job?”

Lim also advocates education reform to provide a world-class education system where one-fourth of the students are not dropping out of high school, he said. The system needs to look at each student and work with them in their own way, based on their individual talents. The system also needs to teach a strong work ethic that also values liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Lim is pro-life, opposing abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or a mother’s life is in danger, he said. He believes marriage is between a man and a woman, but he supported the concept of civil unions for gay partners.

“I believe in no discrimination,” he said. “I believe in equal rights. If any other person tries to take away equal rights, I will adamantly oppose it. With my life, I will fight for that right.”

At the same time, he said, marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Lim said he welcomes immigrants to Oregon, but they must contribute to the community.

They must sacrifice to make the community better, he said. “They need to do what I have done.”

So far, Lim is seeking the office next year in the Republican primary against Allen Alley, a Portland-area businessman. Lim said the most important difference between him and his opponent is that he has the experience in politics and business that is necessary to lead the state through tough economic times.

Lim was in the eighth grade when the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950.

His father, Eun Kyu Lim was forced to serve as a firefighter under the North Korean military occupation for three months.

Because of this, he was executed by the South Korean police right after the North Korean soldiers were pushed back to the north.

After earning his diploma, Lim entered Seoul Theological College and finished in eight years while working part time as a U.S. military missile base student chaplain.

In 1962, at age 28, he married Grace Park, a local high school teacher.

He moved to the United States in 1966 to study for a master of divinity degree from Western Evangelical Seminary. He later was awarded the a doctorate in humane letters from the same seminary.

He founded American Royal Jelly Health Products, which is an international health and beauty supply company.

At 50, he began to serve as the local president of the Korean Society and the president of the National Korean American Federation and president of the Asian American Voters Coalition.

He has three children and four grandchildren.

Living in the Portland area for the past 43 years, Lim said he has “accomplished the American Dream that many people thought impossible.”