President Park meets President Obama in the Oval Office at the White House, May 7, 2013. Image: Pete Souza, White House

President Park Geun-hye Reaffirms Close US-ROK Bilateral Relationship


South Korean President Park Geun-hye has just completed a successful visit to the United States which included a day of meetings at the White House with President Barack Obama, followed by an address to a joint session of the US Congress. Presidents Obama and Park released a joint declaration commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the US-ROK Alliance and building on the 2009 Joint Vision for the Alliance of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea. The two presidents pledged to “strengthen our efforts to address global challenges such as climate change and to promote clean energy, energy security, human rights, humanitarian assistance, development assistance cooperation, counter-terrorism, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, nuclear safety, non-proliferation, cyber security, and counter-piracy.”

Both leaders highlighted their strong bilateral relationship, including the economic links which have deepened since implementation of the US-ROK KORUS FTA, resulting in ” increased trade and investment between our two countries, and recognize its potential for expanding bilateral cooperation and business opportunities, including in the energy sector.” Since implementation of KORUS in March 2012, US exports to South Korea have continued to rise in a number of sectors including manufactured goods—including cars—agricultural products and services.

President Obama thanked President Park, South Korea’s first female president, for choosing the United States for her first overseas trip, and he noted that in her inaugural address President Park “celebrated the ‘can do’ spirit of the Korean people. That is a spirit that we share. And after our meeting today, I’m confident that if our two nations continue to stand together, there’s nothing we cannot do together.”

President Park addresses at a joint session of the US Congress, May 8, 2013. Image: Charles Dharapak, AP

In her speech to the US Congress, President Park highlighted joint US-ROK security cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and throughout Northeast Asia, nuclear security, support for the US rebalance to Asia, US-ROK bilateral trade, and international developmental assistance. She reaffirmed that together the United States and South Korea “will help spread the universal values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law. We will march together to take on global challenges -- from fighting poverty to tackling climate change and other environmental issues.”

President Park was joined on her trip by a 52-member South Korean business delegation including CEOs from Hyundai-KIA motors, SK Innovation, Samsung Electronics and LG. This was the first time that President Park had met with many of these business leaders since becoming president, and it is symbolic that their meeting was held in the United States rather than South Korea according to the Korean language on-line Chosun IIbo newspaper. US businesses, in turn, stressed the importance of South Korea to their future economic plans. Daniel Akerson, CEO of General Motors, informed President Park that GM plans to invest $8 billion in South Korea over the next five years, as reported by the Korean language on-line Chosun Ilbo newspaper.