Opening Speech by Foreign Minister Park Jin at CSIS Roundtable
On June 14, 2022, President John Hamre and Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair Victor Cha hosted South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin at CSIS during his official visit to the United States. The meeting was attended by an esteemed group of former cabinet secretaries and former senior U.S. government officials, as well as renowned foreign policy experts in Washington, D.C. They discussed a wide range of issues of importance to the United States and South Korea, including the Yoon Suk Yeol government's new policy for South Korea to be a Global Pivotal State (GPS).
My name is Jin Park, and it is a great honor and pleasure to be here again as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea. Last time I was here was about two months ago when I led the ROK-US Policy Consultation Delegation sent by then President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol. At the time, I found it immensely rewarding to engage with the US policy community on our alliance. I also noted that our colleagues had high hopes for bringing our two countries even closer on many areas. Today, I’m delighted to be able to say that such expectations are being translated into reality now.
Just 11 days after President Yoon’s inauguration, the Summit between President Yoon and President Biden took place in Seoul. As you know, the presidential office was moved from the Blue House to Yongsan, Dragon Hill. It marked the earliest Summit in a Korean President’s term in office with a US President. Despite the time constraint for preparations, our two Leaders laid out a clear vision for enhancing our alliance into a Global Comprehensive Strategic Alliance, which is global in scope and comprehensive in contents.
President Biden started his trip to my country with a visit to the Samsung Electronics Pyeongtaek Campus, which is near the US military base Camp Humphreys. The Pyeongtaek Campus is the single largest semiconductor manufacturing facility in the world. And during the tour of the facility, President Biden mentioned several times “unbelievable,” “fabulous,” and “amazing.” I think this speaks volumes about the excitement that we share on the infinite potentials for our relationship that have no limits. Born from the ashes of the Korean War, our alliance is moving to even greater heights, working jointly on sectors and issues that are consequential in defining the future strategic environment.
Specifically, I think the Summit was significant in three major aspects – military security, economic and technological partnership, and promoting the rules-based order in regional and global affairs.
First and foremost, the Summit has shown that our security alliance, the central element and very foundation of our relationship, stands stronger than ever. Our two Leaders reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, with the US confirming at the highest level its extended deterrence using the full range of US defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities. The two Presidents also agreed to further strengthen deterrence by reactivating the high-level Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group at the earliest date. In my meeting with Secretary Blinken yesterday, we agreed to convene the EDSCG in the weeks ahead. In addition, both Leaders reiterated our common goal of the complete denuclearization of North Korea, and agreed to strengthen our watertight coordination to this end. Moreover, the two Leaders also emphasized the importance of the ROK-US-Japan trilateral cooperation with regards to North Korea and also to deal with economic challenges.
In the face of the heightened nuclear and ballistic missile threat posed by North Korea, including the possibility of another nuclear test, the Summit outcomes have transformed into immediate, determined and coordinated actions. In the first few hours of North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on May 25th, including an ICBM, our two countries had a series of high-level communication, including my telephone conversation with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and also with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa. When Pyongyang conducted an unusual launch of eight ballistic missiles of different ranges from different locations consecutively between three and seven minutes on June 5th, our two countries fired eight, same number, surface-to-surface missiles together, demonstrating our will to act together in response to North Korea’s belligerent actions. In my meeting with Secretary Blinken yesterday, we agreed that the North Korea issue is one of the top policy priorities for the United States and the Republic of Korea. Pyongyang’s provocations will only lead to strengthened deterrence of the alliance and stronger international sanctions measures. On the other hand, Secretary Blinken and I remain committed to dialogue and diplomacy and we are also ready to provide COVID-19 related humanitarian assistance to North Korea. We still haven’t got any positive response from the North about our offer of humanitarian assistance.
Second, our relationship has evolved into an economic and technological alliance. An important layer of our economic ties is the historic KORUS FTA. At the stage of its congressional ratification, I was serving as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee of the Korean National Assembly. Even amidst fierce debate at home regarding the benefit and costs of having a free trade agreement with the United States, I decided to pass the agreement in the firm belief that it would indeed contribute to promoting the mutual interests of both of our countries, in other words, making it a win-win arrangement. At the time, I remember that the opposition Democratic Party fiercely opposed the KORUS FTA, arguing that if Korea signs this deal, Korea will become an economic colony of the United States, or the 51st state of the US. I didn’t believe that argument. I thought this was a really mutually beneficial agreement, and the two countries would benefit from it. The framework, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has served to promote bilateral trade and investment relations, with trade having expanded nearly 70 percent and investment having more than doubled over the past decade.
Now, faced with changes in the international trade order and supply chain disruptions, our two countries have come to clearly recognize the need to jointly address these challenges as an economic security and technology alliance. Our two countries, with global capability in technology and manufacturing, will promote collaboration in cutting-edge sectors – be it semiconductor, electric vehicle battery, nuclear energy, aerospace, the cyber domain, or biotechnology. In addition, we are committed to enhancing policy communication and coordination on what has been termed economic security issues, including securing resilient supply chains and protecting critical technologies, by launching an economic security dialogue between our National Security Councils. The Yoon government has recently appointed a new position in the presidential office dealing with economic security, Presidential Economic Security Secretary, who will communicate with his counterpart in the White House.
Last but not least, our alliance has significantly enhanced our global profile by assuming a greater role in setting new norms and bolstering the rules-based order. In the Indo-Pacific region, Korea will work closely together with the United States to promote freedom, peace, and prosperity by joining the IPEF and also cooperating with the QUAD. Korea has also announced an initiative to formulate its own Indo-Pacific strategy framework with a view to expanding and deepening our engagement with the region. In addition, our two countries will continue to work together to oppose all activities that undermine the rules-based international order, including Russia’s unprovoked armed aggression against Ukraine.
Yesterday’s meeting with Secretary Blinken was timely and productive. We had a comprehensive dialogue over lunch on a wide range of agenda. We discussed ways to build upon the strong momentum created by the Summit and to promptly implement the many agreements reached by our two leaders. In particular, Secretary Blinken and I agreed that our two countries are natural partners in tackling the increasingly complex challenges of the region and the world. This is thanks to our shared belief in universal values.
Korea is a testament to the world that embracing democracy and market economy can deliver for the people because of creativity and innovation. I’ll tell you a story when President Joe Biden visited Pyeongtaek semiconductor factory on a one and a half hour tour. After asking questions to the employees, the topic the two leaders focused on was democracy. President Biden asked President Yoon “How can this be possible? Semiconductor is originally American technology and now you have the world’s largest factory in Korea.” And President Yoon’s answer was “This is because of democracy, creativity, and innovation. Otherwise, it would not have been possible.” It was very revealing that this technological achievement and liberal democracy, our core values, are really closely interconnected with each other. And experiencing that moment, discussion, and debate, I was really thrilled to see that the two leaders were having philosophical debate about the strength of democracy after a tour of the state-of-the-art technology.
And we believe it behooves us to meet the heightened expectations of the international community. President Yoon, during his inauguration speech, stressed that we must actively protect and promote universal values and international norms that are based on freedom and respect for human rights. Further, President Yoon mentioned that we should take on an even greater role in expanding freedom and human rights not just for ourselves but also for people in other parts of the world including North Korea. And as if he were responding to this speech, President Biden said during his visit to Seoul that the Republic of Korea is fortunate to have a leader who truly embraces the value of free democracy and a broad outlook on the world.
Our alliance was first built to respond to common threats from the communist bloc in Asia. Now, it is advancing into a global and comprehensive partnership that places its focus on common values and goals. This transformation of our relationship represents a true evolution in our mutual ties. This sense of unity based on core values we share makes us one of the most trusted partners. It also serves as a guiding light in what we can do in dealing with multiple challenges.
I feel both privileged and honored to serve as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea in this transformative chapter in the history of our bilateral relationship. Looking back, during my time serving as the Presidential Press Secretary and Secretary for Political Affairs under the Kim Young-sam government, I remember that Korea launched an ambitious globalization campaign, we call it segyehwa. Eager to advance its standing on the global stage, Korea embraced existing norms in the international community and strived to foster a greater harmony with international standards in many areas of Korean life.
So we were a rule-taker. However, it is now taking a new shape and making an important step towards emerging as a rule-maker. With its increased capacity as the world’s 10th largest economy and deeper commitment to upholding the values that we have fostered, Korea now envisions an initiative to serve as a “Global Pivotal State,” and we call it GPS. We hope that this GPS could guide us into the wider world and into a closer alliance with the United States to contribute to peace, freedom, and prosperity. We will endeavor to do our part in preserving universal values including freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and embracing greater roles and responsibilities for resolving regional and global challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
Distinguished friends and colleagues here today may have noticed that our “Global Pivotal State” initiative shares the same acronym with “Global Positioning System.” Korea is now repositioning itself in the world to contribute to the future. Just as the GPS system provides users with the sense of direction and information on the path forward, I hope Korea can emerge as a country which offers valuable guidance to how we may wisely navigate these most challenging turbulences of times.
My first official order of business after arriving in Washington on Sunday was to lay a wreath at the Korean War Memorial and pay tribute to the fallen heroic US soldiers. At the Memorial, I met with ordinary American families whose grandfather and uncle were one of the soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice. I talked with a young boy who had come with his parents. I told him how grateful the Korean people are for his grandfather’s sacrifice and that we should always remember that freedom is not free. It is the most noble and shared commitment to protect freedom, even with the ultimate sacrifice, that lies at the heart of our alliance, making it the strongest alliance ever in history. I would appreciate your support and welcome advice in the process of translating such a noble vision into reality.