Interview: 2024 Taiwan Presidential Candidate and Former Mayor of Taipei City Ko Wen-Je


On May 20th, former Mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-Je (柯文哲) officially launched his presidential campaign. Due to the close US-Taiwan relationship, presidential candidates traditionally travel to the United States before making their official campaign announcement. On his trip to the US in April, Ko traveled to New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and Houston to meet with business stakeholders, members of the overseas Taiwan community, and politicians.

Ko, a physician by training, visited several hospitals during his visit to Boston. He also spoke at an event hosted by the Harvard Taiwanese Cultural Society. At the event, East-West Center Young Professional Yumei Lin was able to ask Ko a few questions regarding his vision for the US-Taiwan relationship.

Q: In what area of cooperation is the US-Taiwan relationship the strongest, and what area needs the most improvement?

A: Outside of security assistance, Taiwan needs the most US support with regards to regional trade agreements, such as the CpTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). Although Taiwan’s economic strength lies in the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) industry, the economy is also centered around it–like putting all your eggs in one basket. Taiwan’s subsequent inability to participate in regional economic systems is one of its biggest challenges. ICT accounts for 20% of Taiwan's GDP and 35% of its exports. So, Taiwan really needs the United States’ assistance in further developing its economy. Other aspects of the relationship have been fairly strong these past few years.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish on this trip?

A: We have three goals on this trip: first, to know the United States; second, to know Taiwan from the view of the United States; three, to be known [as a third-party candidate].

Q: Lastly, how do you think overseas Taiwanese (Taiwanese Americans) can contribute to the US-Taiwan relationship?

A: I am going to refer to Adam Smith. Everyone who does their job well contributes in their own way to society. They don’t necessarily need to go to Taiwan to do this, they just need to contribute to humanity as a whole.

While in Washington DC, Ko also met with Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s Representative to the United States. Ko also gave a fireside chat at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Note: Comments made by Mayor Ko were translated from Mandarin and edited for clarity. Yumei Lin was also previously an International Affairs intern at Taipei City during Mayor Ko Wen-Je’s tenure. This piece does not reflect the views of the East West Center or the author.

Yumei Lin is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C. She is currently an undergraduate at Tufts University studying International Relations with a focus on Security Studies, as well as a minor in Economics.