Address by President Yoon Suk Yeol to a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress in Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance2023.04.27
Alliance of Freedom, Alliance in Action
Madam Vice President,
Honorable Members of the United States Congress,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Citizens of America,
“A new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
I stand before that nation with the conviction of freedom, belief in the Alliance, and resolve to open a new future.
For 234 years, a Congress has been the symbol of freedom and democracy. This Chamber embodies the spirit of the Constitution. I am honored to address the Members of Congress and the people of the United States.
Thank you, both Democrats and Republicans, for passing the Resolution marking the 70th Anniversary of the Alliance. Your support has dignified my visit. I know that no matter where you sit, you stand with Korea.
Over the past century, we have faced many threats. But the U.S. has always led the world in defense of freedom.
Imperial nations fought for colonies. And humanity greatly suffered from the two World Wars. America righteously stepped in to defend freedom.
But it was not without cost.
We remember the leadership of General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. But more than 100,000 American men and women perished in the Pacific War.
Their sacrifice was not in vain.
U.S. leadership established the new world order based on free trade. It brought peace and prosperity throughout the world.
But prosperity was limited to free market economies where communist totalitarian nations did not participate. The world was divided into democratic and communist blocs.
In 1950, the Korean Peninsula was on the frontline. The Soviet Union helped to rearm North Korea. North Korea’s surprise attack threatened the peace on the Korean Peninsula and Asia. Korea’s freedom and democracy were on the brink.
At that decisive moment, the U.S. did not look the other way. Korean and American soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder and fought bravely. Tales of our heroes were written.
General MacArthur caught the enemy off guard with the landing of Incheon and turned the tide of the war. Operation Chromite was one of the greatest decisions ever made in the history of war.
The U.S. 1st Marine Division miraculously broke through a wave of 120,000 Chinese troops at the Battle of Lake Changjin.
Sons and daughters of America sacrificed their lives to “defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
In the Battle of Lake Changjin alone, 4,500 American service members lost their lives. Over the course of the War, almost 37,000 U.S. soldiers fell.
The late Colonel William Weber fought in the Battle for Hill 324 in Wonju. He lost his right arm and leg. Yet, this American hero dedicated his life to honoring the noble sacrifice made by the Korean War veterans.
Today we are honored to have his granddaughter Ms. Dayne Weber with us. Ms. Weber, would you stand up please?
On behalf of the Korean people, I would like to thank you deeply. We salute his noble service and sacrifice.
(Thank you, Dayne.)
Some of the Korean War heroes are your family and friends. The late John Conyers Jr., Sam Johnson, and Howard Coble were veteran Congressmen who promoted freedom and democracy. And the former Representative Charles Rangel has been a strong supporter of the Alliance.
Korea will never forget the great American heroes who fought with us to defend freedom.
Thank you. Thank you.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the Korean War veterans and their families. You did not hesitate to send your sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters. You answered the call to defend the freedom of a country across the Pacific.
I thank the U.S. and its people for honoring the Korean War as a proud legacy. Thank you also for treating the veterans with honor and respect.
Thank you. Thank you.
The war ended after three years of intense battle. Our two nations signed the Mutual Defense Treaty and opened a new era of the alliance. Ever since, the Korean people rose from the ruins of war to build a thriving nation. And at every step, America has stood together with Korea.
We have many reasons to celebrate our Platinum Anniversary. We had no guarantees of success when we started. But today, our Alliance is stronger than ever, more prosperous together, and more connected like no other. Indeed, it has been the linchpin safeguarding our freedom, peace and prosperity.
Once a recipient of aid, Korea is the only nation in modern history to become a donor. This itself demonstrates the success of our Alliance.
Let me talk about the history of our Alliance. The ties of our cooperation and exchange span over 140 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1882.
In the late 19th century, American missionaries helped to widely introduce the values of freedom and solidarity to Korea. These values are the foundations of Korea’s Constitution. They have made a huge impact on our independence movement and the founding of Korea.
Horace Underwood, Henry Appenzeller, Mary Scranton, and Rosetta Hall are some of the missionaries to set foot in Korea at the end of the 19th century. They built schools and hospitals. They promoted education of women. Their efforts laid the foundations for many Korean women to advance into society as educators, journalists, and doctors.
In the early 1960s, the Kennedy administration recommended Professor Rostow’s model for economic growth. President Park Chung-hee wisely embraced the idea and pushed economic development forward. It laid the foundation for Korea to become an industrialized country.
Known as the “Miracle on the Han River,” Korea’s economic growth rate was unrivaled. Korea was one of the Least Developed Countries after the war. Its annual income was just US$67 per capita. Now its economy ranks tenth in the world.
Seoul was once reduced to ashes. Now it is one of the world’s most vibrant digital cities.
Busan was once flooded with war refugees. Now it is the world’s second-largest port city in terms of transshipment volume. It is also bidding to host the World Expo 2030.
Korea is winning the hearts of global citizens. It is dynamic. Freedom is thriving and democracy is robust.
Korea and the U.S. have joined forces to safeguard freedom and democracy throughout the world. Since World War II, Korea dispatched its warriors of freedom. We fought side by side with the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, and others.
For over 70 years in the history of the Alliance, we worked together in military and security sectors. We also expanded our cooperation in the economic field. Our relationship has evolved from one of unilateral assistance to a partnership that is mutually beneficial.
The KORUS FTA was approved with the full support of the U.S. Congress in 2011. Since then, our bilateral trade has increased by 68%. Korean companies’ investment in America has tripled. U.S. companies’ investment in Korea has nearly doubled.
Korean companies are contributing to vitalize the U.S. economy. They are producing EV batteries, semiconductors, cars, and other products here in America. And more importantly, they are creating decent, well-paying jobs.
Take Austin, Texas. Samsung’s semiconductor plant has created nearly 10,000 jobs as of 2020.
Take Bryan County, Georgia. Hyundai’s EV and battery plant is expected to be operational by late 2024. It will produce 300,000 electric vehicles every year. It will employ thousands of Americans.
And take Bay City, Michigan. It is home to SK Siltron CSS, where President Biden visited. It is an example of Korean and American companies merging to achieve even greater growth.
I hope to see more economic cooperation in other parts of America. In this regard, I count on your keen interest and support.
My friends, years of active cultural and people-to-people exchanges have deepened our friendship. This year also marks the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration to the U.S.
Early Korean immigrants arrived as workers on sugar cane plantations in Hawaii. Since then, Korean Americans have made their way into many parts of the American society. They have played an important role fostering closer friendship and writing the history of our Alliance.
Representatives Young Kim, Andy Kim, Michelle Steel, and Marilyn Strickland are here with us. They are a testament to the Alliance spanning generations.
That’s two for each party. It’s a relief that you are evenly placed across the aisle.
Even more, culture is helping to further deepen our understanding and friendship. Nationality and language differences are no longer barriers.
Korean movies “Parasite” and “Minari” have won Oscars. Hollywood films “Top Gun” and “The Avengers” are loved by Koreans. I also love “Top Gun: Maverick” and also “Mission Impossible.”
And even if you didn’t know my name, you may know BTS and BLACKPINK. BTS beat me to the White House. But I beat them to Capitol Hill. Korean and American singers reaching high places in each other’s music charts is no longer a surprise.
The U.S. created global platforms like Netflix. Korea has produced popular series such as “Squid Game.” We are creating a new pattern of synergy.
These cultural exchanges have brought our peoples closer. According to Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Americans’ positive views of Korea reached the highest level since 1978. And according to a Pew survey last year, Koreans’ positive views of the U.S. reached 89%. It marks the largest increase among all the countries surveyed.
Korea and the U.S. agreed to set up an assistance program for our students. It will help them to study and find jobs actively in each other’s country.
Honorable Members of Congress,
I have had two careers in my life. My first job was as a public prosecutor. My second job is serving as the President of my beloved country.
As prosecutor, my role model was the late Robert Morgenthau. He was the real-life character of District Attorney Adam Schiff in “Law & Order.” When I was the Prosecutor General, I printed a book titled “Robert Morgenthau: America’s Eternal Attorney.” I shared it with my junior prosecutors.
In the preface, I included the phrase: an attorney who is silent in the face of great evil will not even stop pickpockets in the neighborhood.
Today, our democracy is at risk.
Democracy is a community’s political decision-making system to protect freedom and human rights. Such decision-making must be based on truths and freely formed public opinion.
But today in many parts of the world, false propaganda and disinformation are distorting the truth and public opinion. They are threatening democracy.
The rule of law allows the freedoms of everyone to coexist. It is upheld by parliamentary democracy.
False propaganda and disinformation corrupt intellectualism. They threaten democracy and the rule of law.
Such totalitarian forces may conceal and disguise themselves as defenders of democracy or human rights. But in reality, they deny freedom and democracy.
We must not be fooled by such deception and disguises.
We have for so long protected democracy and the rule of law with our blood and sweat. We must work together and fight the forces of falsehood and deception that seek to destroy democracy and the rule of law.
Those who cherish freedom also respect the freedom of others. Thus, freedom brings peace. Peace, in turn, safeguards freedom. Freedom and peace are sources of creativity and innovation. They bring prosperity and abundance.
Our Alliance was forged 70 years ago to defend Korea’s freedom. The Alliance has now become a global alliance that safeguards freedom and peace around the world. Korea will fulfill its responsibilities. It will play its part that matches its economic capacity.
In his 1961 Inauguration Address, President John F. Kennedy said, “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” Korea will stand in solidarity with the international community. We will do what we can for the freedom of humanity.
Korea, with the U.S., will march toward the future.
As I took office last year, I pledged to rebuild Korea: a nation belonging to the people rooted in freedom, democracy, and market economy; a nation that the people can be truly proud of, as it fulfills its role as a responsible member of the international community.
Together with the U.S., Korea will play the role as a “compass for freedom.” It will safeguard and broaden the freedom of citizens of the world.
But even as we walked in unison for freedom for 70 years, there is one regime determined to pursue a wrong path. That is North Korea.
The difference is stark between Seoul that chose freedom and democracy and Pyongyang that chose dictatorship and communism. North Korea has abandoned freedom and prosperity and dismissed peace.
North Korea’s nuclear program and missile provocations pose a serious threat to the peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.
To deter its reckless behavior, the alliance must stand united with determination. As President Reagan once said: “There is a price we will not pay. There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” We must make his words clear to North Korea.
Yesterday, President Biden and I agreed to strengthen the U.S. extended deterrence. Along with close Korea-U.S. coordination, we need to speed up Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation to counter increasing North Korean nuclear threats.
My government will respond firmly to provocations. But at the same time, we will keep the door open for dialogue on North Korea’s denuclearization.
Last year, I proposed the “Audacious Initiative.” It will significantly improve North Korea’s economy and livelihood. All Pyongyang has to do is to stop its nuclear program and begin a substantive denuclearization process.
I once again urge North Korea to cease its provocations and take the right path. Korea, with the U.S., will continue to work for North Korea’s denuclearization.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
North Korea’s obsession with nuclear weapons and missiles is throwing its population into a severe economic crisis and human rights abuses.
We must raise global awareness of the dire human rights situation in North Korea. We must not shy away from our duty to promote freedom for North Koreans.
Last month, my government published a report on North Korean human rights. We released it to the public for the first time.
The report documents a wide range of abuses in North Korea. It is based on the testimonies of 508 North Korean defectors collected over the past five years. It records many cases of serious violations of international norms such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights agreements.
Unspeakable and horrendous incidents took place: men and women being shot and killed for violating COVID-19 prevention measures; some being publicly executed for watching and sharing South Korean shows; and people being shot in public for possessing the Bible and having faith.
We need to raise awareness. We must inform the world of the gravity of North Korea’s human rights violations. I ask for your help in improving North Korea’s grim conditions.
My friends, freedom and democracy are once again under threat. The war against Ukraine is a violation of international law. It is an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo with force. Korea strongly condemns the unprovoked armed attack against Ukraine.
When North Korea invaded us in 1950, democracies came running to help us. We fought together and kept our freedom. The rest is history.
Korea’s experience shows us just how important it is for democracies to uphold solidarity. Korea will stand in solidarity with the free world. We will actively work to safeguard the freedom of the people of Ukraine and support their efforts in reconstruction.
Honorable Members of Congress,
So far six Korean Presidents spoke at this important Chamber. The first Korean President, Dr. Rhee Syngman, delivered his speech in 1954. After 35 years in 1989, President Roh Tae-woo standing at this podium said the following:
“The nations of the Pacific have made open society and market economy, the engines that drive the fastest growing region in the world. The Pacific will become even more important to the U.S., and Korea will begin to contribute more to the prosperity and peace of the region… I look forward to the day when some future Korean Presidents may be invited to address this distinguished assembly and describe the vision I spoke of today as an achievement fulfilled, not as tomorrow’s hope.”
President Roh’s vision has become a reality.
Thank you, thank you.
We are currently living in the Indo-Pacific era. This region is home to 65% of the global population, and 62% of the world GDP. It accounts for a half of global maritime transportation.
Last year, Korea announced its first comprehensive Indo-Pacific Strategy. Korea is committed to fostering a “free, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific” based on inclusiveness, trust, and reciprocity.
We will strengthen the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. We will take a comprehensive and multi-layered approach in expanding cooperation with key partners.
This also means that the stage for the Alliance is expanding.
Korea used to receive assistance from USAID. It is now sharing its experience with developing countries in partnership with the U.S. Korea has greatly increased its ODA budget. It is providing tailored programs in tune with the needs of its partners.
Yesterday, President Biden and I adopted a joint statement. It presents a vision of the “Alliance in Action towards the Future.”
Together, our two countries will broaden our Alliance.
Together, we will lead in innovation beyond security and foreign policy. We will work closely on artificial intelligence, quantum technology, bioscience, and Open RAN.
Our partnership in the cutting-edge semiconductor industry will contribute to establishing stable and resilient supply chains. It will also address economic uncertainties.
Together, we will open another new successful chapter. We will explore new frontiers in outer space and cyberspace.
Korea and the U.S. are the world’s top technological powers leading innovation and creativity. Together, we will create a great synergy.
Madam Vice President,
and Honorable Members of Congress,
Our Alliance is an alliance of universal values. Freedom, human rights, and democracy are the very foundations of our bonds.
Our Alliance is for justice.
Our Alliance is for peace.
Our Alliance is for prosperity.
Together, our Alliance will continue to move towards the future.
We will build the world of tomorrow that opens endless opportunities for our future generations.
I look forward to everyone being on board for our new journey together.
God bless you, God bless the United States of America, and may God bless our great alliance.