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Meeting with His Excellency Lee Myung-bak

Speaker: Lee Myung-Bak, President, Republic of Korea
Moderator: Robert E. Rubin, Former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
September 21, 2009, New York.
Council on Foreign Relations

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(Note:  President Lee's remarks are provided through an interpreter.)

ROBERT RUBIN:  I am Bob Rubin and I am here to welcome you, all of you as members, Council on Foreign Relations, as we welcome our distinguished guest, President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea.

In accordance with Council practice, I will not describe his resume.  It's in your materials.  But I will observe that it is really a truly remarkable record of success and effectiveness in both the private sector and the public sector, and it is well worth looking at.

The only specific item I will mention is one simply because it is somewhat curious, and that is, the president is, to this day, the honorary ambassador of the state of Arkansas.  (Laughter.)

Let me make one personal comment about President Lee, if I may.  I had the opportunity to be with the president when he delivered his remarks to celebrate the first anniversary of his election as president of the Republic of Korea.  It was a time when the financial crisis was profoundly affecting Korean exports, Korean GDP, and the won.

President Lee's comments reflected a truly keen understanding of the economic issues his country has faced, a sensible and highly proactive approach to addressing those problems, and a sound long-term strategy for Korea.

At a time when the global economy is still facing such daunting short-term and long-term issues, I believe it is exceedingly fortunate, not only for the people of Korea but for the entire global community, that the president of a major economy has the level of sophistication and understanding President Lee has with respect to economic issues.  And that is particularly important because President Lee, as you know, will chair the G-20 after the Pittsburgh meeting.

Before President Lee comes to the platform, let me mention a few housekeeping items.  This meeting will be on the record.  It is being teleconferenced to Council members around the world.  We ask you to please turn off cell phones, BlackBerrys and whatever else you may have brought with you.

After President Lee's remarks, the president and I will sit here for a few moments and I will pose a couple of questions to the president, and then we will open the questions to all of you.

With that housekeeping out of the way, it is my enormous privilege and pleasure on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations to introduce the president of the Republic of Korea, President Lee Myung-bak.

Mr. President.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK:  Thank you, Mr. Rubin.  Thank you for those warm remarks.

It's a great honor and a privilege for me to be invited by the three institutions -- very, very thankful for your invitation.  The last time I was in CFR was in March of 2006.  Back then I was mayor of Seoul and had an opportunity to speak before you here at CFR.  It's been a little over two years, and now today I'm back at the CFR.

What I would like to do, ladies and gentlemen, today is to talk about the Korea-U.S. alliance and also share with you my vision for the future of the Korea-U.S. alliance as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, next year we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.  More than 37,000 young American soldiers came to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.  And so that is why the Korean War must never be a forgotten war.

The very first chairman of the Korea Society, General Van Fleet, lost his son in -- (inaudible) -- used to be a B-29 bomber pilot who died while in battle to defend Korea.  Among those who took part in the Korea War, 142 of them were sons of active American generals.  And out of these 142, 35 of them were either killed or wounded in battle.

These brave soldiers defended freedom and liberty in Korea.  And following in their footsteps, today there are more than 27,500 American men and women in uniform serving in the Republic of Korea, helping us defend our freedom and ensure our security.  Many of them are doing what their grandfathers and fathers did by serving in Korea.  And, of course, one of them is the current U.S. force commander, General Walter Sharp.

What these and many other Americans did was to help lay the foundation for freedom and democracy to bear fruit in the republic.  The United States was the stepping stone that made possible Korea's ascent into prosperity, and herein lie the strength and the foundation of our alliance.  The United States and the Republic of Korea share values, and we fought together side by side to defend these values.  This is what makes our alliance so resilient and enduring.

The combination of U.S. assistance and Korea's determination and hard work led to phenomenal growth in all aspects.  Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of less than 50 U.S. dollars in the 1950s.  Now Korea became a country with a per capita GDP of close to $20,000; the size of its economy near the top 10 in global terms.  Korea is also now a member of the G-20 and serving as one of the chairs of the troika of all the countries that gained independence.

Following the end of the Second World War, Korea was the only country to have achieved both democracy and industrialization.  From a country that sustained itself through the largess and generosity of others, we now hope to become a nation that gives back.  The remarkable accomplishments that we managed to achieve in half a century is something that we as Koreans are all proud of.  It is also something for you as Americans to be proud of.

Distinguished guests, the alliance made in 1954 was a military alliance borne out of a desperate need to defend the country from aggression.  It was an alliance forged to protect Korea from the threat of communism after the peninsula was divided into two following the Korean War.  It was a security alliance to manage the balance of power on the Korean peninsula and in the Northeast Asian region in an age when the world was fighting a cold war.

Last June President Obama and I agreed to adopt a joint vision for the future of the alliance during our summit meeting in Washington, D.C.  What we agreed by adopting this vision was that we will work towards making this alliance into something that will positively contribute to promoting peace and prosperity around the world.

We also agreed that this alliance will no longer just be about ensuring security, but much more.  It will continue to carry out its purpose of securing peace, but at the same time it will be a comprehensive strategic alliance for the 21st century that encompasses economic, social, cultural, educational, scientific and technological cooperation.

The future vision of this alliance is the common road map for the future of our partnership.  This partnership has been tested throughout the last 55 years -- the Cold War, post-Cold War, 9/11 -- and, as such, has shaped the need and determined the scope of our alliance.

Now we are called upon to transform this alliance into a more mature and future-oriented alliance.  Now the Republic of Korea and the United States will work to protect and promote values which we both believe in.  We will work together so that we can make substantive contributions to issues like global issues such as climate change, eradicating terrorism, stopping nuclear proliferation, fighting the spread of drugs, and fighting the spread of disease.

And for this, Korea will expand its contributions to the international community.  We will share our development experience with those who are seeking to get on the path to sustainable development so that they can find a model that is suitable for them to attain sustainable development.

And also, the Republic of Korea will increase our financial assistance of ODA.  By 2015, we will increase it by three-fold.

And Korean soldiers are taking part in U.S. peacekeeping efforts, as well as multi-national coalitions in 13 parts of the world, preventing outbreak of conflict, taking part in peace-building -- peaceful reconstruction, providing agricultural and medical services to remote parts of the world.

And also another critical issue that faces us is the issue of tackling global climate change.  And that is why the area of "green growth" in an area where our two countries can further expand our cooperation.  The Republic of Korea has set forth a new national vision, and will vigorously pursue this long-term goal, focusing on our low-carbon green-growth future, focusing on clean technologies, smart grids and green vehicles, as well as nuclear energy.

Korea will, of course, seek closer cooperation with the U.S. in developing such technologies.  This is significant not only for closer bilateral ties, but also part of our common goal and responsibility in seeking out a new engine of growth for the future.

Distinguished guests, exchange between people of our two countries have been expanding.  Every year, 1.4 million people visit each other.  Last year Korea became a member of the Visa Waiver Program being implemented by the U.S. government, and this has led to increased people-to-people exchanges.  The number of Korean students studying here in the United States is on a par with countries that are much larger than Korea, like China and India.

However, trade between Korea and the U.S. has been faltering a little bit in recent times.  Our trade volume has risen twofold, however our trade with the United States -- which used to be our largest trading partner, in the same period of time, over the last eight years or so, has only increased twofold.

This figure is rather small because this makes the United States the fifth largest trading partner for the Republic of Korea.  The Korean trade volume stands at $83 billion U.S. dollars, and now this makes Korea the seventh trading partner when viewed from the United States.

This comparatively slow increase in bilateral trade can be dramatically increased through the passage and the implementation of KORUS FTA.  The KORUS FTA contains strengthened provisions on investment guarantee, and tools that will protect intellectual property rights.  These are measures that will promote bilateral investments, and, of course, increased trade and investment will also contribute to creating quality jobs here in the United States.

The KORUS FTA will further consolidate the expansion and cooperation between the U.S. with a region that is dynamic and vigorous like the Northeast Asian region.  The KORUS FTA will elevate the Korea-U.S. alliance into one that goes beyond the military security alliance.  It will become the catalyst in making this alliance into a comprehensive, strategic alliance that encompasses economic and social aspects as well.

It is my sincere wish that our governments will continue to work together with such shared vision so that this agreement can be ratified and implemented at the earliest possible date.

Ladies and gentlemen, today the Korean Peninsula is the only divided region in the world.  Another important task that our alliance must address is to bring an end to this division and to lay the foundation for a permanent peace on the Peninsula.  And for us to achieve this peaceful unification, we must first attain the goal of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and this why North Korea must abandon all its nuclear programs, and we must convince them to do so.

Unfortunately, we do not find any signs anywhere that North Korea has such intentions.  Up until now, the North Korean nuclear -- (inaudible) -- has gone through the same predictable pattern, a pattern oscillating between dialogue and tension.  We made progress, only to take backward steps.  The North Koreans made pledges, only to rescind.

We did not touch the fundamental issue, which is the complete dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.  Instead, we compensated them for agreeing to freeze their programs, and we compensated them for not keeping their promises.  And sadly, we cannot go back to our traditional negotiating pattern.  We must not repeat our mistakes that we made during the last 20 years.

And this is the reason why I proposed, during my last summit meeting with President Obama on the meeting of the "five parties," within the Six-Party Talks framework, the "five parties" must come to a clear understanding, agree on a specific action plan with an aim to achieve full dismantlement of North Korean nuclear weapons program.

We must have a comprehensive and integrated approach to fundamentally resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.  Through the Six-Party Talks, we must first dismantle the core component of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, and we will then be ready to provide North Korea with security assurances, as well as international assistance.  This is what we mean by a "grand bargain."

I made it clear once again, during my National Day speech delivered last August, that I am prepared to pursue a new peace initiative if North Korea makes that strategic decision to fully and irrevocably give up their nuclear ambitions.  This new initiative will greatly improve the lives of ordinary North Koreans and bring about fundamental change.

The North Koreans mustn't consider our proposal as a threat to their regime or as an attempt to isolate them.  Once North Korea gives up their nuclear programs and ambitions, they will begin to enjoy a new relationship with the rest of the world.  This is the only way for them to ensure their own survival, and the only way for them to get on the path to sustainable development.  When North Korea commits to this goal, no country will be hostile to them.  They will be welcomed by the international community.

Those of us taking part in the Six-Party Talks must continue to work closer together so that North Korea understands this.  They must accurately read what is unfolding, and promptly make that critical decision.  And, in this regard, the role of the host of the Six-Party Talks -- China, has become that much more important.

And, of course, Korea will continue to do all that it can.  And when we talk and cooperate with the North Koreans, resolving the North Korean nuclear issue will remain as one of the key agendas.  President Obama and I share the same view on ways to resolve this issue, and that is why Korea-U.S. cooperation will be further strengthened.

The latest U.N. Security Council resolution will, of course, continue to be faithfully implemented while encouraging North Korea to take that important step.  North Koreans are facing not a threat, but an opportunity.  North Korea must not throw away what may be their last chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, pretty soon the Korea-U.S. alliance will be handed over to a generation that never experienced war or the harsh reality of the Cold War.  Countries in Northeast Asia will be led by the post-war generation and we will see a change of leadership in these countries.  Japan, for instance, has succeeded in changing its leadership for the first time in 55 years; and China, last week, through their central committee, has consolidated its fourth generation of leadership.

A new era calls for new kinds of cooperation, and strengthened cooperation requires that we have more dialogue and more understanding of each other.  The Northeast Asian region is no longer the stage where opposing ideologies collide.  We must now look towards the same goals, and face the same challenges together, and work together.  This is the way to foster a cooperative network that will resolve issues of common concern and assure our common prosperity.

And in such times, the strategic role of the United States is more important than ever, not only on the Peninsula but throughout the region.  And such an environment also provides for an opportunity for the U.S. to contribute more broadly to expanding this alliance.  Korea and the U.S. are embarking on a new journey, one aimed at promoting peace around the world.  Let us be proud of what we achieved together over the last decades, and now let us prepare to set sail to open up new horizons.

Lastly, I am here to attend the 64th U.N. General Assembly, and we all hope for the success of the climate change meeting so that we can ensure success of the Copenhagen meeting at the end of this year.  And also the Pittsburgh G-20 meeting will be an occasion for the world leaders to discuss ways to escape, and resolve, and for us to come out of the global current crisis.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

RUBIN:  You answered all my questions.  (Chuckles.)  Okay, here's what we're going to do now.  I'm going to spend about -- just a few minutes, I'm going to pose two questions to the president, which will relate to the comments he just made, then the floor is yours.  When you all get up to ask questions, please wait for the microphone, state your name, your affiliation.  Only one question, make it concise so as many people can speak as possible.

Let me start you off with this, if I may, Mr. President.  I think the broad-based feeling in this country at least, that over the decades ahead Asia will become the single largest part of the global economy.  As that occurs, what kind of relations do you think will develop between China, Japan and Korea particularly.  And as a follow-up on that, is it likely that you will move forming a block, as the European countries did, or remain separate?  And although you alluded to this in your speech, what role do you think the United States should play in that region?

LEE:  Well, that's a very difficult question.  (Laughter.)

RUBIN:  I think -- Mr. President, you understand -- the president understands English.

LEE:  First of all, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure and an honor that Mr. Rubin is moderating this session, so thank you very much.  Don't worry, I understood your question.  (Laughter.)

RUBIN:  And you were trying to say something.  Tell us what you're saying.

MR.     :  Take them off.

RUBIN:  I should take it off?  (Laughter.)  I kind of like the look.  (Laughter.)  So be it.

LEE:  You can keep it on if you want.  (Laughter.)

RUBIN:  I'll accede to the instructions.

LEE:  So Mr. Rubin, please allow me to begin by answering your question this way.  Of course, the current global economic and financial crisis has affected all the countries around the world, but I'm very happy to note that countries -- economies in the Asian region, notably China, of course including Korea, India and even to the extent Japan, its economy has recovered fairly well from the current economic global financial crisis.

For instance, the Japanese economy, the forecast for the second quarter, they're saying that they expect a positive growth for Japan, which is very good news for us all around the world.  In terms of the size of the economy for China, we all know that its size has grown dramatically over the years.  I think the size of Chinese economy alone, I think it's equal to the size or the combined size of Japan and the United States, or at least the trade bond between Japan and the United States equals the size of China.

Just to give you an illustration, this is how big the Chinese economy is, and of course the Korean economy has become very close with our neighbor China.  And also we can note with certainty that the Chinese economy's influence in the global trading and also in the global economy has grown exponentially.

And also, ladies and gentlemen, we are currently in the process of trying to come out of this current global economic and financial crisis, but what's more important is that we must never lose sight of the fact that we must really do all that we can and prepare for the post-crisis mode.  And also I'm talking about rebalancing the global growth.  And there are going to be many issues stemming from the imbalance of the global growth, because if we don't do something about it preemptively.

And in that regard I think the G-20 format has been extremely successful and will remain important for us as we deal with these critical issues of global concern.  Sometime in the latter half of next year, we will be engaging in enthusiastic discussions about what we are going to do post crisis, and I think we are also going to talk about a host of issues, including governance issues, for instance, which will include the IMF reform and other very important topics.  And for all of these to be successful and effective and long lasting, international cooperation will be critically important.

And also, ladies and gentlemen, it's about really balanced growth, because the G-20 format brought together the leaders of the most advanced and new and emerging economies so that we can all try to escape and recover from the current global economic crisis.  But then again I stress once again the importance of balanced growth, because as we saw in this current crisis, a problem emanating from one country will inevitably have influence on other parts of the world.

RUBIN:  Let me follow up, then, with my other question, if I may, Mr. President.  You're going to be chair of the G-20 after the Pittsburgh meeting.  And you also refer sometimes to global Korea, suggesting a much broader role for Korea and the world in -- (inaudible) -- II.  How do you -- if you think of China, Japan -- well, Japan's a little bit different -- China, Korea and the other emerging-market nations that have been so enormously successful, do you think that they will begin, including -- very much including Korea -- they will begin to take a much larger role in the issues outside of Asia, for example Mid-East peace, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Darfur.

You mentioned global climate change, and a whole host of questions in which they have not traditionally been involved but with their major economies, they at least somewhat argue, should now become as deeply involved as the European countries have and the industrial countries.

LEE:  Yes, well thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, of course this is uncertain but it's very highly likely that Korea will be hosting the next G-20 meeting following this year's Pittsburgh meeting.  It hasn't been decided yet but we expect sometime next year to be the host of the G-20.  And once we do, by then when Korea is the host of the G-20 next year, hopefully we will be recovering from the current global economic crisis.  And of course there will always be new global issues that we must deal with.  And of course as host of the G-20 Korea will have heavy responsibility to talk about these delicate issues, and not just talk about them but to come up with viable solutions to them.

And of course as the influence of East Asian countries grow, I believe that the responsibility of these countries will also grow together with them.  And also one of the many hosts of delicate issues concerning East Asia will be from an economic point of perspective, what to do about the trade deficit, or the imbalance between trade among different economies and regions.

And, of course, all of you will agree with me, the current global issue that concerns all of us, of course, is global climate change, and there are a difference of opinion about this between the advanced economies and countries like China and India.  So this is an issue that we must deal with effectively as well.

And, of course, ladies and gentlemen, we have the upcoming Copenhagen meeting in December in Denmark.  And in order to ensure success, we really must do all that we can, but the big question remains, will the countries be able to come to a final agreement in Copenhagen?  We will have to wait and see.

But having said that, Korea, although we are a non-Annex I country, we will continue to take voluntary measures, such as by the end of this year announcing a mitigation target for carbon emissions, and this measure, among others, is one way for us to contribute to this debate, because we want to by doing this encourage other emerging economies so that we can become a bridging role between the advanced and the emerging economies.

It's because when we talk about carbon emissions, many people point to and refer to this term historical responsibility.  Of course, advanced economies do have some sort of historical responsibility and they are encouraging the emerging economies that they must get on board and fight global climate change.  On the other hand, the new and emerging economies are saying that they need some sort other enticement to get on board.  So bringing these two camps together is going to be a very difficult task, but we must do all that we can to bring some sort of harmony between these two camps.

And, of course, ladies and gentlemen, apart from global climate change, we have the issue of food security and energy security and a whole host of other very important issues.  And when Korea is the host of next year's G-20, I think that it is important for us as host to continue this momentum because the G-20 has been extremely successful in helping economies around the world recover from the current crisis, and I think that point must be noted and also sustained, and I think this has been unprecedented historical case where we have the advanced economies together working with the new and emerging economies, and I think such format of cooperation must be sustained.  And as chair of the G-20 for next year, Korea will do its best to ensure that we continue with this momentum.

MODERATOR:  Mr. President, thank you.

I have a follow up question I would like to ask, but I'm going to constrain my -- (laughs) -- myself in order to give everybody else an opportunity to ask questions.

I'll call on people and then would anybody like to start us off?

Yes, ma'am.   Just say who you are, what your affiliation is, and then --

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  I'm Cora --

MODERATOR:  You might stand as well, I guess.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  I'm Cora Weiss from the Hague Appeal for Peace.

The United Nations has declared today, September 21, an international day of peace to be celebrated every year, and I believe you said that North Korea faces not a threat but an opportunity and then you said, I think, but it may be facing its last chance.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

LEE:  I think it's going to be their last chance.  Maybe the North Koreans don't think so.

Ma'am, I truly believe that the international community has been working together to peacefully resolve this issue, and we will continue to do so, and that was my point of stressing the fact of the last chance.  And of course, we will continue to encourage North Korea to fully and irrevocably give up their nuclear weapons program, and I believe through the cooperation among the six parties, as well as the international community, that we will be able to encourage North Korea to take that path -- take that path, and of course, get them on board to work with the international community towards nonproliferation.

MODERATOR:  Next question.  Let's have --

Yes.  Ted Sorensen, who as you know is a chief advisor to President Kennedy.

QUESTIONER:  Mr. President, I'm Ted Sorensen -- (inaudible) -- it's been a long time since several countries were left divided by the fortunes of the Cold War.  Others, Germany and Yemen come to mind, were locations where the common ethnic, historical, cultural ties ultimately overcame the military and ideological barriers to reunification.

Are you surprised that those same tugs toward unity have not succeeded in -- on the Korean Peninsula?

MODERATOR:  And why haven't they succeeded?   That's a good question.

LEE:  Yes, thank you, sir.  In -- the situation on the Korean Peninsula is very unfortunate for both North and South Korea.  It's almost 60 years since the division of the Peninsula.  As you know, sir, we have about 1.5 million North Korean soldiers facing us near the DMZ, while we have 600,000 or so of our own soldiers trying to defend our own country.

If we were to reduce this non-defense expenditure being spent by both the two Koreas, I'm sure that the quality of life for both North and South Korea would greatly improve, but unfortunately that is not the case.  As we know, the North Korean population, one-third of them are always in constant chronic hunger.  That is a situation of the current North Korean economy and its regime.

I do believe that it's critically important that we work towards unification of the Korean Peninsula, but at the same time currently the situation calls that we at least (off mike) between South and North Korea.  One reason for that is because the state of the North Korean economy is so dismal that the gap between the two Korean economies has widened so much that unification right now is a very difficult prospect, and that is why we are convincing North Korea to fully give up their nuclear weapons program, because once they do, we are -- we have always been prepared to provide them with various forms of economic assistance in order to improve their economy quickly so that their standard of living will improve.

Sir, you mentioned the case of Yemen.  I understand that the unification of Yemen happened through violent means or perhaps not through not entirely peaceful means.  So we do -- we've never sought to achieve unification through such measures.  We have always been consistent in our aim to achieve peaceful unification.

In the case of the two Germanys, this happened quite unexpectedly.  So we are always prepared for this contingency as well in making all the necessary preparations in case we have unification like Germany has done.  (Laughs.)

MODERATOR:  Next question?  Yes, sir.  We need a microphone if somebody would.  There's one right over there.

QUESTIONER:  Welcome back to the Council, Mr. President.

MODERATOR:  Oh, you've got two.  You can take a choice.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Mr. President, my name is Roland Paul.  I'm a lawyer; I've been in the U.S. government in the past.

We know a reasonably good deal about the North Korean plutonium program for obtaining nuclear weapons, but we don't know much about, if any, their uranium -- enriched uranium.

Could you tell us in this context or in this kind of meeting what you believe to be the extent of the North Korean enriched uranium program?

LEE:  Thank you, sir.

As you know, in 2005 we had the so-called September 19th agreement between --with North Korea.  And also, this was during the time when the six-party talks framework was under negotiations.  At the time, the North Koreans made it explicitly clear that they did not possess any uranium enrichment programs, and the United States government was negotiating based on that premise.

However, following their latest -- North Korea's latest underground nuclear testing this year, the North Koreans have come out and admitted and said publicly that they do have a uranium enrichment program.  So I think that when we negotiate with the North Koreans that we will have to take the worst-case scenario in mind and negotiate accordingly.

QUESTIONER:  Mr. President, a follow-up question:  What is the risk of the North Koreans selling capabilities -- not uranium, I guess, scientific capabilities -- the ability to produce nuclear weapons to others?

LEE:  Yes, well, I do not want to make any definitive statements or name any countries here in my answer, but we know from reports -- there are news media reports that quite recently there was a nuclear facility that has been bombed near the border between Syria and Iraq by the Israelis and we assume that some of them came from North Korea.

However, there is the possibility -- and again, I do not want to say that there is or isn't, but there is still the possibility that North Korea may have been engaged in transacting their technology overseas.

MODERATOR:  Yes, ma'am.

LEE:  She's a Korean!

MODERATOR:  She's a Korean.  Well, we are -- (Laughs).

LEE:  She does not -- (inaudible) -- (Laughs).

QUESTIONER:  (Speaking in Korean.)

Well, we need a fun and exciting and a passion here, because it's too heavy.

In fact, I'm here in accession week, as you can see.  But I am a businesswoman from Korea and my name is Hong Ju Kim (ph).

My question to the president -- oh, before my question, in fact, we are very proud to have a CEO president, the first time in Korea, actually moving around leading the whole global leaders.  We are very proud.  Appreciate --

LEE:  -- (Inaudible.) -- (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER:  Why not?  (Laughs.)

Okay.  Actually, it's a kind of comment and my question too.  We are all talking about the foreign relations.  But really, the foreign relations start from individual.  When I look at the relations between U.S. and Korea -- more than 60 years since you know -- 50 years since the Korean War and now we're talking about an FTA trade package of $81 billion -- one of the third largest one.

But I wonder whether the future building this relationship can be initiated by women and younger generation.  Because we only talk about North Korea -- very heavy.  I know this is reality we have to face, but I think in this globalized world half population in Korea, half population in United States is composed by women.  And also, we talk about preparing the future generation for better things.

So I wonder if the president has any special really plan to encourage more individual exchange programs among women and younger generation for our future -- great future together.  Thank you.

LEE:  Yes.  Thank you, ma'am, for that question.

I won't go into too specific details, but let me just say first of all that I fully agree with your question and your comments.  And the next time I meet President Obama, I'll make sure to bring it up and tell him as well.  (Laughs.)

MODERATOR:  Oh, I don't know -- way in the back over there.  There we go.

QUESTIONER:  Rich Smith from Newsweek.

Mr. President, as you know, there's a spirited debate here now about the regulations that may or may not be necessary to respond to the recent financial crisis.

Since your country -- and in fact, economies all around the world all felt the aftershocks of that crisis; I wonder if you have any thoughts about the scope or the nature of the regulations that might be required to prevent a repetition of that crisis.

LEE:  Yes, thank you, sir.

Like you rightly pointed out, because of the current financial crisis there are a lot of talks among the leaders about erecting new forms of regulations -- especially in the financial sector.  But I can tell you for a fact that the world leaders, they do not -- they have not come to a complete agreement on this issue.  Because of the different circumstances and the unique needs and nature of each country, the different economical culture and also the background and so forth, really prevents the leaders from coming to a complete agreement on this issue.

Of course there is very much spirited debate going on at the moment and I expect this debate to continue this week when we all gather in Pittsburgh for the G-20.  But I do think it is going to be very difficult for all the leaders to come to a full agreement.

But as for financial regulation and putting up new measures for financial regulatory activities, I'm sure this agreement or this discussion will result in a positive way, which will benefit rather than be detrimental.

RUBIN:  Mr. President, let me -- as I said before, we teleconference really around the world.  So let me read one question from someone whose listening on teleconference.

Chip Pitts of Stanford University asked you the following question, he says that many companies around the world are adopting approaches of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, focusing not just on shareholders interests but on a full range of stakeholders.  And his question is is this an issue that Korean companies take seriously?  And how important do you think corporate social responsibility is to the overall health of the Korean and global economies?

LEE:  Ladies and gentlemen, we all knew that the current economic crisis originated here from the United States and more specifically it originated from Wall Street.  And so as a result, many people around the world have been questioning whether these people or, to be exact financiers, they question their moral responsibility or the corporate responsibility of some of the firms that really were to blame for the current global economic crisis.

And that is one reason why we see many Europeans putting forth a lot of propositions and proposals in order to prevent such a thing from happening again.  While the Korean corporate sector I think it's in a very similar situation because, however it's a little bit different.

The fact is the Korean corporate sector has grown tremendously over the last 50, and if you look at it even shorter than that, in the last 30 years, they've posted tremendous growth.  And I think this was a time when these Korean companies really did not have time or the will to look back and think about corporate social responsibility on their part.

However, we have many Korean companies that have become global players and now they are very proactive in exercising their corporate social responsibility in Korea and abroad.

And to add another point I think the Korean consumers and the people are exercising consumer responsibility.  One way for that is demanding Korean companies to exercise corporate social responsibility and making them engage in more activities towards this end.

So I think in this regard in terms of corporate social responsibility I think Korean companies will continue to make some contributions and I hope that they do.

RUBIN:  We'll adjourn as we always do promptly at Council events, and our adjournment time is 2 o'clock, so we probably have time for one more question.

And we'll just arbitrarily take that.  I can't see who it is.  The woman in the middle.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you Secretary Rubin.

RUBIN:  Oh, it's Laurie!

QUESTIONER:  Laurie Garrett from Council.

Mr. President thanks again for joining us.  Very quick question, six parties talk always focus on nuclear proliferation questions.  But North Korea has long been rumored to have stockpiles of specific biologicals that could be weaponized or perhaps have been.

In particular its been long alleged that they did not turn over their stocks of smallpox in 1977 when the rest of the world did.  Should biologicals be part of the six parties' negotiations?  And how seriously do you take this?

LEE:  Thank you, ma'am, for the question and, yes, indeed, biological weapons is a very serious issue.  But I think not only the nuclear issue but also the issue of weapons of mass destruction and North Korean human rights issue.

These are all very important issues that must be dealt with when dealing with North Korea.  And they, of course, are on the agenda but not on the Six Party Talks agenda because as we all agreed the urgent matter and the pressing concern that we face is North Korean nuclear weapons program.

And the Six Party Talks framework has been established in order to specifically deal with North Korean nuclear issue. And of course this will be because this is a global issue; the Six Party Talks has been engaging in order to resolve this issue peacefully.

But I do believe that once we have a full resolvement of the North Korean nuclear issues then these issues of equal importance, like the weapons of mass destruction, North Korean human rights situation and other issues will have to be dealt with in one way or another.

And of course once we have the resolvement of the North Korean nuclear issue then I do foresee and hope that these other issues of equal importance and magnitude will be able to come to a resolvement as well.

One thing I'm concerned about is for us to really lay everything out on the table simultaneously and try to figure a way out of all these very important issues all at the same time, but rather right now for us the urgent concern is to try to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, which has always been a concern for the international community.

RUBIN:  Mr. President on behalf of the Council we again are deeply honored and delighted you're with us. As Richard Haass said to you when you were coming in, we look forward to you joining us again and we wish you the best in everything you do.

Thank you.

LEE:  Thank you.

 

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