President Park Geun-hye delivers an address before a joint session of the House and Senate in Washington on Wednesday. At rear are U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (left) and House Speaker John Boehner. (Yonhap News)
WASHINGTON -- President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday (Thursday Korea time) hailed the Korea-U.S. alliance as the linchpin of a reunified Korea, the future Northeast Asian order and the two countries’ cooperation to address insecurity and poverty around the world.
Park also called on the U.S. to support her vision to forge a multinational mechanism for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.
The president delivered these messages before a joint session of the House and the Senate and during the gala dinner commemorating the 60th anniversary of Korea-U.S. alliance the night before.
“Building on the extraordinary accomplishments of the last 60 years, we determined to embark on another shared journey toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, toward cooperation in Northeast Asia, and finally, toward prosperity around the world,” Park said in her 30-minute speech, referring to the summit talks she had with President Barack Obama the day before.
President Park Geun-hye is greeted by U.S. lawmakers after making her speech at Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
She specified a three-point vision for the future of the alliance for the peninsula, region and the world.
Park said the alliance should lay the groundwork for enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula and over time, for reunification.
Park explained that her “trustpolitik” process involved never accepting a nuclear-armed North Korea and decisive measures against any provocations, but delinking that from humanitarian aid.
“And with the trust that gradually builds up, through exchange, through cooperation, we will cement the grounds for durable peace and eventually peaceful reunification.”
U.S. lawmakers applaud President Park Geun-hye as she delivers an address at Capitol Hill in Washinton on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
At her speech to Congress, Park also called on the alliance to reach beyond the Korean Peninsula and build a mechanism for peace and cooperation.
“The initiative will serve the cause of peace and development in the region. But it will be firmly rooted in the Korea-U.S. alliance,” she said saying the dialogue could start on softer issues such as environment, disaster relief, nuclear safety and counter-terrorism. She added that North Korea could also be invited to join.
As the third vision, Park offered the alliance would stretch to global issues like counter-terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and the global financial crisis.
“Together, we 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.”
During the speech, delivered in English, Park also broached the Seoul government’s push to secure the right to reprocess spent fuel rods for civilian purposes.
Stating that Korea remained committed to the principle of non-proliferation, Park said, “In this regard, we need a modernized, mutually beneficial successor to our existing civil nuclear agreement.”
Park became the sixth South Korean president and the 12th female leader to speak before a joint session of the Congress.
On Tuesday night, she emphasized the role of Korea-U.S. alliance in this, telling the dinner guests, “The alliance of South Korea and the U.S. will be a cornerstone for the unfettered and reunified Korean Peninsula.”
From the Korean side, presidential aides, ministers and some 50 business delegates attended. Around 400 participants joined from the U.S. side including Peace Corps members, former and incumbent U.S. government officials, members of American academia, business executives and Korean War veterans. Prior to the dinner, Park briefly met U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his wife.
“The ultimate purpose to be sought after by the Korea-U.S. alliance is to contribute to the happiness of all humankind,” Park said in her speech, which was received with thunderous applause from the participants on several occasions.
In tune with her jingle for creating a “creative economy,” Park emphasized the importance of culture in bringing peace and said that the Korea-U.S. alliance that goes beyond security and economy to culture will contribute to reaching the common values. Dressed in hanbok, Park also thanked Americans for their dedication and friendship.
Earlier the same day, Park reiterated her vision in an interview with the Washington Post.
“While it may not seem like much, I think the state of emotions in the region can be quite risky and dangerous, so if we could build trust, this is a project which I wish to pursue jointly with the United States and in fact it is what I suggested to President Obama in my meeting with him.”
In between the summit talks and dinner, Park met with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and discussed ways to cooperate in helping developing countries fight poverty and fostering sustainable development around the world.
The second half of her U.S. trip will be business-focused, starting off with a breakfast meeting with the business delegation that joined the president in the U.S. capital on Wednesday (Thursday Korea time). The delegation includes the largest-ever number of conglomerate owners, including Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
Officials said small and mid-sized businesses as well as the large conglomerates that represent Korea joined the delegation to help the new government promote wider investor relations.
The focus is to assure American investors that South Korea remains undeterred despite the repeated military threats from North Korea.
It is also the first such gathering between Park and the business leaders although she has visited representative business federations since her inauguration. Park and the business circles had a shaky start as one of her core campaign pledges was to implement economic democratization measures aimed to sternly curb unfairness practiced by chaebol in the markets and help foster smaller companies.
At the breakfast, Park and the business leaders discussed the outcome of the summit talks, the direction of the government’s economic policy, expanding investment and employment opportunities and enhancing cooperation with the U.S. for the creative economy. They then attended a roundtable hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce later in the day.
Park is to stop over in Los Angeles before returning home on Thursday (Friday Korea time).
By Lee Joo-hee
Korea Herald correspondent