David Oh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
David Oh
Member of the Philadelphia City Council Councilman At-Large (citywide)
Assumed office
January 2, 2012
Preceded byJack Kelly
Personal details
Born (1960-03-08) March 8, 1960 (age 58)[1]
Southwest Philadelphia
Political partyRepublican
ChildrenHannah, Joshua, Daniel, Sarah
Alma materDickinson College
Rutgers Law School (Camden)
Military service
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1988–1996[2]
RankFirst Lieutenant

David H. Oh is a member of the City Council of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Oh was elected in November 2011 and re-elected in November 2015, and was the first Asian-American elected to public office in Philadelphia. He is the only U.S. military veteran currently serving on the city council.

Early life and education[edit]

Oh was born in Philadelphia. He has lived on the same block in Southwest Philadelphia since 1963. Oh's father, the late Rev. Ki Hang Oh, founded Philadelphia’s first Korean-American church in 1953 and served as its Pastor until his death in 2006. In 1958, Oh’s cousin, In Ho Oh, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, was murdered by a group of teenage boys while mailing a letter to his parents. Because of their faith, In Ho Oh’s parents requested leniency for the boys and started a fund to help educate and rehabilitate them upon their release. Rev. Oh started a community service center in his name. In Ho Oh is buried at historic Old Pine Cemetery where his tombstone simply reads, “To turn sorrow into Christian purpose.” Oh attended public school except for his freshman year of high school when he attended Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Lansdale, PA. He transferred to Central High School, Philadelphia, PA where he received his High School Diploma. Oh graduated from Dickinson College and Rutgers University's Law School-Camden.

Work History[edit]

While in law school, Oh started a volunteer free legal services program for indigent Asian Americans and immigrants. For this and other works, Oh received a Human Rights Award from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. Upon graduation from law school, Oh worked for three years as an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia.[3] In 1988, Oh resigned from the District Attorney's Office to join the U.S. Army and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and served in the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Army National Guard. Upon his return to Philadelphia after completing military training, Oh volunteered for the next year providing free legal services full-time. Oh opened his solo law practice in 1990. Several months later, he closed his practice when he was activated with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) for Operation Desert Storm. The war ended quickly before he was deployed. Oh returned to Philadelphia and re-opened his law practice. David Oh was also arrested in the 1990s on gun charges stemming from an incident involving sex workers. Oh's law practice grew and he incorporated it as The Law Firm David Oh, PC. In 2008, Oh merged his law firm into Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, PC. Oh was elected to Philadelphia City Council in 2011 for a four-year term. Oh continued his relationship with Zarwin Baum until February 2015 when he resigned from the firm. He has not been affiliated with a law firm since then. Oh was re-elected to a second term in November 2015 and sworn-in on January 4, 2016. Oh is Minority Whip and Chairman of Council's Committee on Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy.

Boards and Commissions (Past & Present)[edit]

The following is a list of boards and commissions in which Oh has served in the past and present:

  • Nazareth Hospital
  • Greater Philadelphia Metro Export Plan, Steering Committee
  • Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
  • Philadelphia Cultural Fund
  • Community College of Philadelphia
  • Nazareth Academy High School
  • Monte Jade Science & Technology Association: Mid-Atlantic Chapter
  • Walnut Street Theater
  • First Commercial Bank of Philadelphia
  • Christian Street YMCA
  • Tribune Newspaper Charities
  • PA. House Advisory Committee on Workers’ Compensation Reform
  • Crime Prevention Association
  • Philadelphia Health and Education Corporation (Hahnemann University)
  • Friends of the Korean War Memorial at Penn’s Landing
  • Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition
  • Mayor’s Commission on Literacy
  • Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission
  • Educational Nominating Panel for the Philadelphia Board of Education
  • Federal Judicial Nominating Committee for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • MiND Independent Television (formerly WYBE Public Television)
  • Dickinson College Alumni Council
  • Central High School Alumni Association
  • 82nd Airborne Association: Hajdak/Mokan (Philadelphia) Chapter, Past Chairman[citation needed]


The following is a list of awards that Oh has received:

  • Plaque of Appreciation (2014), Connection for Humanity
  • Award for Continued Advocacy and Advancement for Local Veterans (2014), Veterans Multi-Service Center
  • Certificate of Appreciation (2013), U.S. Army Special Forces Association, National Headquarters
  • Veteran Humanitarian Award (2013), Philadelphia NAACP
  • Certificate of Achievement (2013), General Meade Society of Philadelphia
  • Certificate of Appreciation for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (2013), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Philadelphia Region
  • Pioneer in Diversity (2012), The Pentecostal Clergy Political Awareness Committee
  • Certificate of Appreciation (2012), American Legion-Benjamin Franklin Post 405/Union League
  • Civic Leadership Award for Dedicated Service to Children and Families (2012), Youth Services Inc.
  • Lincoln Day Award (2012), Germantown Republican Club
  • Person of the Year (2012), The New York Korean Daily Newspaper
  • Distinguished Leadership Award for Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education (2012), Community College of Philadelphia
  • Recognition Award (2011), Friendship Council of U.S.
  • Decade of Service Award (2010), The Pentecostal Clergy Political Awareness Committee
  • Plaque of Appreciation for Continued Devotion and Dedication to the Philadelphia Veterans Community (2008), Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Society
  • Certificate of Appreciation. Keynote Speaker for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (2005), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Philadelphia Region
  • Honor Graduate Award (2005), P.A.H.P.E.R.D.
  • Community Service Award (2004), Pan Asian Association of Greater Philadelphia
  • Humanities Award (1998), M.W. St. John's Grand Lodge
  • Humanitarian Award (1995), The National Conference of Christians and Jews
  • The Outstanding Young Leader Award (1994), Philadelphia Chapter of The United States Jaycees
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Philadelphia Community, Asian Pacific Heritage Month (1994), U.S. Marshall Service
  • Plaque of Appreciation, Asian American Heritage Month (1993), Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division Warminster
  • Appreciation Award for Supporting Cultural Awareness Seminar (1993), Naval Warfare Center
  • Outstanding Service Award (1991), Chinese-American Resource Center
  • Outstanding Achievement Award (1990), Pan Asian Association of Greater Philadelphia
  • Plaque of Appreciation for Dedicated Service (1988), District Attorney's Office of Philadelphia
  • Human Rights Award (1985), Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

In 1991, Oh was a member of Ed Rendell's Mayoral transition team. In 1999, Oh organized Governor Tom Ridge's trade mission to South Korea.[2] In 2003 and 2007, Oh mounted unsuccessful campaigns to win one of Philadelphia City Council's two minority party (Republican) At-Large seats. In both elections, Jack Kelly and Frank Rizzo out-polled Oh.[4] In 2003, Oh ran for Philadelphia City Council At-Large. Despite being an outsider with little funds and almost no party support, Oh shocked the pundits by receiving 98,000 votes. Oh ran again in 2007. He won on Election Day by just 7 votes but the next day, the Election Board announced that it had not counted any absentee ballots. The absentee ballots had been held at its facility and not distributed to the polling places. Weeks later, Oh lost by 122 absentee votes. However, in 2011, Kelly did not stand for re-election, and Rizzo was defeated in the Republican primary. In the general election, State Representative Denny O'Brien took one of the at-large seats, leaving Oh and former Mayoral candidate Al Taubenberger in a close race for the final seat. Oh led by 166 votes after the initial election day tally, and was able to increase his lead after provisional ballots were counted.[5] After Oh was certified the winner, he met with incoming Council President Darrell Clarke and advocated for the creation of Council's Committee on Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy. It was created and Oh was appointed Chairman. Oh was also selected as Minority Whip. In 2015, Oh ran for re-election and won. This time, Oh was the top Republican vote-getter and Al Taubenberger defeated incumbent Councilman At-Large Denny O'Brien. Oh was again selected Minority Whip and reappointed as Chairman of Council's Committee on Global Opportunities and the Creative/innovative Economy.

In 2016 The Philadelphia Board of Ethics cited and fined three employees of Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh for working on Oh's re-election campaign last year while on the city clock. Executive Director Shane Creamer says that violates the city charter.

“It’s never appropriate to engage in political fundraising and for political campaign activity — they are permitted to engage in that but they cannot engage in that on city property on city time or using city resources.”

Military Service and Campaign Controversy[edit]

During the 2011 campaign, The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Oh's claim that he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets, was a stretching of the truth. Oh criticized the paper for publishing the tabloid-styled piece and for confusing military uniform and terminology of 1991 with that of 2011. He noted that he did indeed serve as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Army National Guard. He also stated that the reporter had official documentation that his MOS (military occupational specialty) was changed from 11-A, "Infantry Officer", to 180-A, "Special Forces Technician", and that he was assigned a green beret which he had full authority to wear during his time of service.[6] Oh himself did not, however, complete Special Forces training. He defended his military service”[7] but issued an apology not being aware of the uniform changes since 1993 and for any confusion that may have resulted.[8][9][10] Several veterans and related groups stepped-forward to defend Oh, including the Green Beret officer who recruited him to join the U.S. Army Special Forces.[11] Veterans criticized the Daily News' original story, including the front cover picture of Oh with a green beret photoshopped onto his head, as misleading.[6] As a result, the United Veterans Council of Philadelphia endorsed Oh and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Society made him an honorary member.

In 1991, Oh was activated with his unit, C Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), for Operation Desert Storm. The war ended before Oh's unit was to be deployed, and he was subsequently released from Active Duty with an honorable discharge.[3] Veterans groups and others stated that Oh had always been clear about his military service, freely stating that he was not "SF tabbed". Oh served with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from 1989 to 1992. He transferred to the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) and received an honorable discharge from the US Army in 1996.


With his election to Council, Oh became the first Asian-American elected to political office in Philadelphia.[3] He was re-elected to a second term and sworn-in on January 4, 2016. He serves on the following Council Committee's: Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy (Chairman); Finance; Appropriations; Law & Government; Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs; Streets; Education; Public Property; Commerce & Economic Development; and Transportation & Public Utilities. Oh serves on Council's Leadership as Minority Whip.[12]

As one of his primary issues, Oh has focused on the economic development of Philadelphia and the further creation of jobs and opportunities for those in the City.

Oh has made efforts to engage in the global economy by the increase of trade, tourism, overseas investment, and exports from the city. He traveled to South Korea on trade-missions at his own expense. While there, he met with dignitaries and the executives of large companies such as Hyundai-Rotem, Samsung Electronics, Korean Air, and Asiana Airlines in order to encourage them to establish or expand their businesses in Philadelphia,

In his first term Oh held hearings examining the ways in which Philadelphia could become more globally competitive, implement successful models of vocational and career training into public schools and Philadelphia Community College, train and expand its workforce, adopt global best practices in public education, and attract employers by improving city services and reducing and simplifying taxes that discourage investment.

Oh has also been a major advocate for the deepening of the Delaware River to accommodate larger ships, allocating funds to modernize and expand the Philadelphia International Airport, examining opportunities regarding natural gas, increasing live venue entertainment and high-end retail shopping in Center City, increasing tourism and international conventions, the development and preservation of national treasures, historic areas and museums, establishing a “smart city/smart aging” initiative, and the development of creative/innovative sections in the City’s commercial corridors to transition Philadelphia into a 24-hour city.

Oh introduced bills to reform public education, reduce the city wage tax by $100 million over 11 years, collect delinquent taxes more efficiently, reform Philadelphia's troubled pension system and address pension debt, and create an International Trade and Investment Fund. Among the laws created by Oh are Philadelphia's veterans hiring tax credit which provides a $15,000 tax credit over 3 years to employers who hire returning veterans and protection for working mothers against firing or harassment for pumping breast milk at the work place and requiring a reasonable accommodation wherever practical.

Personal life[edit]

Oh lives in Southwest Philadelphia with his wife, Heesun, and their four children, Hannah, Joshua, Daniel, and Sarah.[3] Oh is a long-time practitioner of the martial arts. Oh has provided free martial arts programs for kids and free self-defense programs for women.

Oh was a victim of a stabbing in an attempted robbery outside his home on May 31, 2017 while unloading groceries from his car. He was treated at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, was released the next day and returned to work as a councilman. A twenty-four-year-old suspect surrendered to police on June 3 and was arraigned on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, possession of an instrument of crime with intent, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.[13][14][15]


  1. ^ "David Oh, At-Large". Philadelphia Elections Information. Committee of Seventy. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "About David". David Oh for City Council. Archived from the original on February 16, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "Councilman David Oh". Philadelphia City Council Members. The City of Philadelphia. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  4. ^ "Oh, David H." Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  5. ^ Brennan, Chris (November 15, 2011). "David Oh takes the cake in at-large Council race". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Thompson, Isaiah. "Hall monitor special: Who's behind the attacks on David Oh—and why?". The Naked City. The Philadelphia City Paper. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  7. ^ Mayes, Eric (September 6, 2011). "Council Candidate Oh: Party Out To Get Him". The Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  8. ^ Foster, Brittany (September 6, 2011). "David Oh's Speedbumps, Courtesy of PhillyClout". PoliticsPA. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  9. ^ Brennan, Chris (August 23, 2011). "Clout: Oh offers tepid apology for Green Beret claim". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  10. ^ Warner, Bob (August 25, 2011). "Green Beret claim threatens David Oh campaign". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Thompson, Isaiah. "Yet another former army official says Oh did not mistate his military credentials". The Naked City. The Philadelphia City Paper. Archived from the original on November 6, 2011. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  12. ^ "Standing Committees". Philadelphia City Council Committees. The City Of Philadelphia. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  13. ^ "Councilman David Oh stabbed during street robbery near his Southwest Philly home". Philadelphia Inquirer. June 1, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  14. ^ "Philadelphia Councilman David Oh describes moment he was stabbed". 6ABC Action News (WPVI-TV). June 1, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  15. ^ Hartman, Trish (June 4, 2017). "Suspect charged in stabbing of Philadelphia Councilman David Oh". 6ABC Action News (WPVI-TV). Retrieved June 9, 2017.

External links[edit]

Philadelphia City Council
Preceded by
Jack Kelly
Member of the Philadelphia City Council for the At-Large District
Succeeded by