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South Korean President Park's Remarks at a Joint Session of Congress, May 2013

Speaker: Park Geun-hye
Published May 8, 2013

South Korean President Park Geun-hye spoke at a joint session of Congress on May 8, 2013. She discussed U.S.-Korean collaboration regarding regional security and economic initiatives.

President PARK: Speaker Boehner, Vice President Biden, distinguished Members of the House and the Senate, ladies and gentlemen, I am privileged to stand in this Chamber--this hallowed ground of freedom and democracy--to speak about our friendship and our future together.

After I arrived in Washington the day before yesterday, I went to the Korean War Memorial near the banks of the Potomac. I read the words etched in granite: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters, who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." Time and again, I am moved when I read those familiar words.

Let me express--on behalf of the people of the Republic of Korea--our profound gratitude to America's veterans. Their blood, sweat and tears helped safeguard freedom and democracy. I also offer my heartfelt appreciation to four men in particular. They served in that war and now serve in this Chamber. Their names are Congressmen John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Sam Johnson and Howard Coble. Gentlemen, my country thanks you.

When the guns fell silent in the summer of 1953, Koreans were surviving on $67 a year. Six decades later, Korea is one of the top five car producers and the eighth-largest trading nation. Some call this the ``Miracle on the Han River.'' But for those of us in Korea, it was anything but a miracle. And it wasn't just built from within. Koreans worked tirelessly in the mines of Germany, in the jungles of Vietnam, and in the deserts of the Middle East. These are the people--the proud Korean people--I am so honored to serve as President. They are the ones that made Korea what it is today. Together, we will write a sequel to that story: "A Second Miracle on the Han River.'' This time, it will be written with a revived economy, with a people that are happy, with a flourishing culture, and on a pathway to a reunified Peninsula. These are the four tenets that guide my government.

We also know that we didn't come this far on our own. Along our journey we have been aided by great friends, and among them the United States is second to none. America, I thank you for your friendship. If the past is anything to go by, our new journey will also be filled with excitement. This year, we honor the 60th anniversary of our alliance. And today, I would like to acknowledge one iconic family that captures those 60 years. It is the family of Lieutenant Colonel David Morgan. Colonel Morgan's grandfather, the late Warren Morgan, fought in the Korean War. The senior Morgan was a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. His father, John Morgan, also served in the Korean War. He was a battery commander of the 213th Field Artillery. Colonel Morgan himself has served two tours in Korea in 1992 and 2005. The Morgan family is a living testimony to our 60 years together--three generations of Americans helping to safeguard Korea. That family is here with us today. As President of a grateful nation, I salute the Morgan family and the commitment and friendship of the American people.

Looking forward, our precious alliance is setting its sights on a better world--a brighter future. Bound by trust, guided by shared values, we are cooperating across and beyond our own boundaries. Korea has stood by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, we supported peace-building and reconstruction in those nations. Following the Washington Conference in 2010, Seoul hosted the second Nuclear Security Summit last year. There we reaffirmed our commitment to the vision of "a world without nuclear weapons.'' A world without nuclear weapons--President Obama's vision--must start on the Korean Peninsula. For the Peninsula is home to the only divided nation-state and directly faces the threat of nuclear weapons. It is an ideal test bed for a future free of nuclear arms. If we can pull it off on the Korean Peninsula, then we can pull it off anywhere else. Korea has been pursuing the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It is also firmly committed to the principle of nonproliferation. Korea and the United States are partnering to build reactors in third countries. In this regard, we need a modernized, mutually beneficial successor to our existing civil nuclear agreement. Such an accord will bring huge benefits to related industries in both our countries.

Our partnership also extends to development assistance. The United States and Korea send the largest numbers of aid volunteers abroad. We will work side by side to help lower-income countries. In 2011, our aid agencies signed a document that facilitates these efforts. And Korea's aid agency will soon be signing another with the U.S. Peace Corps.

In March of last year, the Korea -U.S. Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The agreement adds an economic pillar to our alliance. It has moved us closer to a comprehensive strategic alliance. We can do even more. If the bill on visa quotas for Korean professionals is passed in this Congress , both our economies will benefit, for it would help create many more jobs. It would show our people what the FTA can do for them. I ask Congress for its understanding--for its support. Our FTA also connects East Asia and North America and provides a key platform for building a common Asia-Pacific market. The agreement also helps underpin Washington's rebalancing toward the region. Collectively, these developments paint a forward-leaning alliance. They point to a 21st century partnership that is both comprehensive and strategic.

Ladies and gentlemen, That is our present, the foundation on which we stand. I now wish to share my vision of "our future together''--a future that we will build together as partners.

Following our meeting yesterday, President Obama and I adopted a joint declaration. 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. It is my hope that as we make this journey, our partnership will be guided by a three-part vision.

The first is to lay the groundwork for enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula and over time for reunification. That future, I know, feels distant today. North Korea continues to issue threats and provocations firing long-range missiles, staging nuclear tests that undermine peace on the Peninsula and far beyond it. The Korean Government is reacting resolutely but calmly. We are maintaining the highest level of readiness. We are strengthening our cooperation with the U.S. and other international partners. Korea's economy and financial markets remain stable. Companies--both domestic and foreign--see this, and are expanding their investments. Korea's economic fundamentals are strong. Its government is equal to the task. And it is backed by the might of our alliance. So long as this continues, you may rest assured: no North Korean provocation can succeed. I will remain steadfast in pushing forward a process of trust-building on the Korean Peninsula. I am confident that trust is the path to peace, the path to a Korea that is whole again. The Republic of Korea will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. Pyongyang's provocations will be met decisively.

At the same time, I will not link humanitarian aid provided to the North Korean people, such as infants and young children, to the political situation. And with the trust that gradually builds up, through exchange, through cooperation, we will cement the grounds for durable peace and, eventually, peaceful reunification. But as we say in Korea , it takes two hands to clap. Trust is not something that can be imposed on another. The pattern is all too familiar--and badly misguided. North Korea provokes a crisis. The international community imposes a certain period of sanctions. Later, it tries to patch things up by offering concessions and rewards. Meanwhile, Pyongyang uses that time to advance its nuclear capabilities. And uncertainty prevails. It is time to put an end to this vicious cycle. Pyongyang is pursuing two goals at once--a nuclear arsenal and economic development. We know these are incompatible. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. The leadership in Pyongyang must make no mistake. Security does not come from nuclear weapons. Security comes when the lives of its people are improved. It comes when people are free to pursue their happiness. North Korea must make the right choice. It must walk the path to becoming a responsible member in the community of nations. In order to induce North Korea to make that choice, the international community must speak with one voice. Its message must be clear and consistent. Only then will we see real progress in inter-Korean relations. Only then will lasting peace be brought to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

Sixty years ago, a stretch of earth bisecting the Korean Peninsula was cleared of arms. Today, that demilitarized zone drawn to prevent armed collision is the most militarized place on the planet. And the standoff around the DMZ has the potential to endanger global peace. We must defuse that danger. Not just South and North Korea. The world must also get involved. The demilitarized zone must live up to its name, a zone that strengthens the peace, not undermines it. It is with this vision in mind that I hope to work toward an international park inside the DMZ. It will be a park that sends a message of peace to all of humanity. This could be pursued in parallel with my trust-building process. There, I believe we can start to grow peace--to grow trust. It would be a zone of peace, bringing together not just Koreans separated by a military line, but also the citizens of the world. I call on America and the global community to join us in seeking the promise of a new day.

Honorable Members of Congress, the second leg of our journey extends beyond the Korean Peninsula to all of Northeast Asia, where we must build a mechanism of peace and cooperation. Sadly, today, the nations of this region fail to fulfill all that we can achieve collectively. That potential is tremendous. The region's economies are gaining ever greater clout and becoming more and more interlinked. Yet differences stemming from history are widening. It has been said that those who are blind to the past cannot see the future. This is obviously a problem for the here and now. But the larger issue is about tomorrow. For where there is failure to acknowledge honestly what happened yesterday, there can be no tomorrow. Asia suffers from what I call "Asia's paradox'': the disconnect between growing economic interdependence, on the one hand, and backward political, security cooperation on the other. How we manage this paradox--this will determine the shape of a new order in Asia. Together, we must meet these challenges. And so I propose an initiative for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia. We cannot afford to put off a multilateral dialogue process in Northeast Asia. Together, the United States and other Northeast Asian partners could start with softer issues. These include environmental issues and disaster relief. They include nuclear safety and counterterrorism. Trust will be built through this process. And that trust will propel us to expand the horizons of our 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. In this sense, it could reinforce President Obama's strategy of rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific. Of course, North Korea could also be invited to join. If we start where our interests overlap, then later on it will be easier to find common ground on the larger challenges, easier to find solutions to our mutual benefit. I firmly believe that Korea and the United States will work hand in hand as we shape an emerging process for cooperation in the region.

The third and final leg of our journey extends even farther beyond the Peninsula--beyond Northeast Asia to the rest of the world. It is to contribute to happiness--the happiness of Koreans on both halves of the Peninsula, the happiness of all humanity. This is a vision I also advanced at my inauguration. The "pursuit of happiness'' is enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence. It also occupies a special place in the Korean Constitution. I have long believed that our alliance should aim far, that it should ultimately seek a happier world. Guided by this spirit, we stood side by side in the frontiers of peace and freedom. Infused by this spirit, we are expanding cooperation on global issues, issues like counterterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation and the global financial crisis.

Our efforts will not stop there. 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. Members of the House and the Senate, Our journey since the Korean war has been led by a specific mission to respond to threats and provocations from the north and to defend freedom and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Today, our alliance is called upon to go beyond that--beyond just the defense of freedom and peace. We are called upon to step forward on a new journey--a journey toward a Korea that is at peace, that is happy, and that is made whole. Our economic partnership must also aim higher and reach further into the future. President Obama has outlined the Startup America Initiative.

Together, with my strategy for a creative economy, we can advance toward a common goal--to help channel the innovative ideas, the passion, and the drive of our youths towards a brighter future. Koreans and Americans are partnering in new ways, whether at world tours of Korean pop stars for Hollywood films or at reconstruction sites in the Middle East. Together, we can envision a future that is richer, that is safer, and that is happier. Our chorus of freedom and peace, of future and hope, has not ceased to resonate over the last 60 years and will not cease to go on. Thank you very much."

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