comscore 2020 Election: Tae Kim | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Tae Kim

  • Tae Kim
Name on ballot:

Tae Kim

Running for:

Honolulu prosecuting attorney

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:




Previous job history:

defense attorney since 1992

Previous elected office, if any:


Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

I’m in my mid 50s and Oahu, Hawaii is my HOME, I was raised at KPT (Kuhio Park Terrace) in Kalihi and in Kaneohe. I attended Fern Elementary School, where I had my lickings, first slow dance with Mrs. Suzuki at Camp Erdman, and my first kiss, not with Mrs. Suzuki. I grew up listening to Peter Moon Band, Kalapana, and Kapena. I graduated from Castle High in Kaneohe, Native Hawaiian nominated me to the West Point, attended college at UH, and with help of Japanese American both my brother and I went to law school and became lawyers, I got married here, both my daughters are born and raised here. Oahu, Hawaii is my Home, my only home, I’ll live and die here. Give me ahi poke and lau lau for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I don’t need anything else.
I am a product of every ethnicity in Hawaii. Our home will be stronger, safer and more informed, I am committed to strengthening Public Safety.

I have been a criminal defense attorney for the past 28 years. In contemplation of running for the Honolulu Prosecutor, I have visited all of the 33 different neighborhoods across Oahu, from Northshore to Waikiki and Makaha to Hawaiikai. Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office is the only elected office not represented in any of the 33 neighborhood board meetings. People are not informed or educated of what’s happening in criminal justice. Honolulu Prosecutor’s office have not listen to people’s concerns.
Foundation of Public Safety is people being informed and educated of Criminal Justice System.
I will listen to people’s concerns and inform and educate the public of our criminal justice system. I will establish community section to attend neighborhood meetings and hold regular open houses at the prosecutor’s office. Prosecutor’s goal is public safety, it’s not just about convictions, we don’t have to wait until a criminal has been committed, we must invest in prevention and rehabilitation programs. The Public Safety can not be achieved without people’s involvement.
Criminal Justice System must be held accountable and people must demand transparency and fairness over politics.

What will be your top priority if elected?

My first priority is to bring Trust back to the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office and Criminal Justice System, and I will establish community section to achieve this goal, to inform and educate the public. I will listen to people’s concerns and share what’s happening in criminal prosecution. I will demand accountability from our Criminal Justice System, the police, prosecutor, judges and prisons.

Did you support the release of some inmates to fight the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails? Please explain.

I did, but it was done too hastily without proper planning and monitoring. There are number of released defendants that have not return to court to face their charges, and warrants are issued for their arrest. Now we’re having to find and re-arrest them, some have even committed new offenses while released.

What is the most effective way to reduce crime on Oahu?

Prosecutor’s goal is public safety.
Prevention and Rehabilitations do lot more for Public Safety than convictions and imprisonments. We must invest in prevention and rehabilitation programs. We can not limit ourselves to temporary fix.
We must demand more accountability from our Criminal Justice System, police, prosecutors, judges and prisons. What are each doing to promote public safety.

People must be informed of what’s happening in our criminal justice system. Why do we need more treatment facilities and mental health program, why are prisons over crowded, and how can we work together to prevent crimes. Help must be available to all who seeks it. We can’t continue with programs having one bed space for 20-40 people in need of treatment.

Public Safety can not be achieved by law enforcement alone. People must be made aware and get involved in prevention. If we spend a fraction of what we have spent on Honolulu’s rail project, we can work towards preventing and reducing crimes at our HOME. Isn’t safety of our family, friends and HOME worth more than traffic congestion?

Given the budget constraints of county government, are there certain crimes you would prioritize or de-prioritize in terms of prosecution?

There’s no easy way to put certain offenses above the other in terms of seeking accountability, but with increase in gun violence and crimes against people, we need to make sure that communities are safe from physical violence. We also need to address offenses involving drug addictions. If it’s just offenses involving personal drug use, than we must offer help not cages. But the help must be received, if not, than it’s more than just addiction and we must seek to remove them from our communities.

Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.

Law enforcement must be accountable for its actions or inactions. People must be made aware what’s being done about misconducts. What are current remedial measures, is it working, and how it needs to be changed.
I do not support de-funding police department. Police must have better vetting in selecting its officers, better training, and better education. Public can no longer tolerate police misconducts. Police must be held to higher standard of conduct and must do away with police immunity from criminal prosecution.

What specific measures would you take to prevent a repeat of the abuses by convicted deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha?

First step in prevention of any problem is acknowledging that we have a problem and addressing how the problem occurred.
I am deeply concerned that the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office have not yet addressed to the people of the corruption surrounding its Deputy Prosecutor and Honolulu Police Chief. Not just what happened but How it happened.

Why the elected prosecutor, who’s received Federal Target letter and removed from the office is still receiving full benefit and pay at the expense of tax payers, why the prosecutor’s office is being run by a deputy “hand-picked” by the removed prosecutor. It’s been 18 months and no response and no words to the people.
Where’s the accountability? Are they hoping to let time pass and the public will forget about it? Is this a way to PREVENT A REPEAT of abuses?

Every deputy prosecutors and staff members at the Honolulu Prosecutor Office must answer to the elected prosecutor and the elected prosecutor must answer to the people.
What’s worse? Knowing what happened or Not knowing what happened?
At least if you know what’s happening, you can take steps to prevent it. Not knowing is inexcusable.
I will regularly demand reports from all the deputy prosecutors and staffs on the cases they are handling. I will have supervisors routinely oversee the deputies’ cases and hold timely meetings with the supervisors.
Without compromising any pending investigations and cases, I will hold regular public open houses to inform the people of what’s happening in the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office. I will remove any door that closes the public off from what’s happening in criminal prosecution. I will demand accountability because I expect the people to hold me accountable for what I know and actions I have taken.

What would you do to restore trust and transparency in the Department of Prosecuting Attorney?

In addition to establishing community section to attend the neighborhood meetings and holding open houses at the prosecutor’s office for public involvement, listening to people’s concerns and informing the public of what’s happening in criminal justice system. The Honolulu Prosecutor Office’s operation and records will be accessible and available for public inspection. Again, without compromising any pending investigations and cases.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

I’m not a politician, not a part of any establishment nor endorsed by any unions or organizations. We must avoid any appearance of impropriety. I will apply the law fairly without politics to everyone equally, poor, rich, strong and weak.

A common theme with the establishment or individuals selected or appointed by establishment is that they have “da experience, that there’s no room for on the job training”, that no new faces allowed.

My campaign manager, Radford Fujioka, is my best friend from high school. Radford was a small business owner and now works for DOE.

I believe Prosecutor’s Office is a Public Office that belongs to the people, no one individual or group must be entitled to it. I believe in humility not entitlement. I believe it’s public service, not job security. I believe in Term Limits, and giving everyone a chance to serve and LEAVE the office and have no ties or influences left behind.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2020 Hawaii elections coverage.

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