Arts Desk

North Korean Defector Ma Young-Ae to Perform at Senate Event

Our favorite North Korean defector-turned-sausage merchant Ma Young-Ae is back in the news. Last we heard, Ma had retired from the restaurant business, choosing instead to sell her Pyongyang sausages wholesale to both restaurants and Korean grocers up and down the East Coast. This has left her with more time to devote to her other passion, political activism. Sometimes, her business allows her to kill two birds with one stone, as her deliveries to New York give her frequent opportunities to protest at North Korea’s U.N. diplomatic mission, she once told me. The harassment goes both ways: She claims to have recognized North Korean officials snooping around a Korean restaurant in Queens where she was making one of her sausage runs.

But she also keeps up with her original vocation, as a musician. Ma plays the yanggeum, a traditional stringed instrument played with mallets. Most of her gigs have been at local Korean churches, but tomorrow she enjoys her biggest stage yet: the U.S. Senate. The D.C. edition of the Hangook Ilbo (Korea Daily) reports Ma will perform at a reception for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the Russell Senate Office Building. The event is specifically organized around Senate Resolution 201, a bill which apologizes for the Chinese Exclusion Act and other historic anti-Chinese legislation. The belated pro-China overtures are perhaps bittersweet for Ma, given her imprisonment and torture by Chinese authorities in the course of her escape. But the host committee boasts a multi-ethnic coalition of AAPI organizations, including the Organization of Chinese Americans, American Bangladeshi Community Development, Korean Community Service Center, and Maryland Muslim Council. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and Congressmen Chris Van Hollen, Mike Honda, John Sarbanes, and Frank Wolf serve as honorary hosts.

The coverage also scored Washington City Paper another mention in the local Korean press. Check the third column in the Hangook Ilbo that mentions Ma’s cover story profile in the “internet newspaper City Paper.” Looks like we've been downgraded from "influential Washington area newspaper," which is how another Korean paper described us two years ago.

The event takes place on Thursday, May 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kennedy Caucus Room, Room SR-325 in the Russell Senate Office Building, 1 1st Street NE.

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