However clumsy and ineffectual their lobbying efforts may have been South Koreans operating here proved themselves past masters solving one basic Washingtion problem: How to Meet a Congressman.
Like other interest groups seeking to further their goals in Congress, the Koreans wanted to meet personally with members to get their points across. But they found the path to personal access blocked by the many other organizations compeing for the members' time.
To meet members the Koreans set out to give parties that no congressman could resist. With lavish expenditures, they quickly gamed a reputation for holding parties for more extravagant than the average Washington reception.
More important, the Koreans learned to use senior congressmen as "bait" to lure other members.
Rep Larry Pressler (R.S.D.), in a typical comment, says that he felt little interest when Tongsun Park invited him to a party in 1975.
"I had never heard of the guy." Pressler says. "But he told me it was a party for John Brademas. Brademas was chairman of my subcommittee, so I thought I'd better show up." At the party, Pressler found Brademas. Park and other Koreans, and about dozen congressmen.
In addition to Brademas, an Indiana Democrat who is now House majority whip, members who served as "guest of honor" at Korean affairs included House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D Okla,), and former Sen. William Sanbe (R Ohio).
Following the initial contact at such parties, the Koreans would follow up with fawning letters and repeated visits to the offices of congressmen who attended the social functions.