University News

Ambassador talks past and present Korea-U.S. relations

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Both the history and current state of trade relations between the U.S. and South Korea point toward a strong friendship, Ambassador Han Duk-Soo told a full Pembroke Hall on Monday.

With the G20 meeting to be held in Seoul in November and the Korean-US Free Trade Agreement on the verge of approval, Han’s talk came at an important time.

Part of the Chong Wook Lee and Vartan Gregorian Distinguished Lecture series, Han’s lecture began with introductions by Director of the Watson Institute for International Studies Michael Kennedy and Professor-at-Large William Rhodes.

“We have no better friend in Asia than Korea, and it has been proved again and again and again,” Rhodes said, stressing the importance of the U.S.-South Korea relationship.

Han, who has served as both South Korea’s minister of finance and its prime minister during his career, began his lecture with a bit of merriment. “As this is Brown,” he said, “I want to assure everyone here that my speech was printed on recycled paper and that no animals were harmed in the writing of it.”

The first part of his lecture was devoted to the history between the United States and Korea. Communication first began between North Americans and Koreans 250 years ago in the ginseng trade. Ginseng was thought to have medicinal properties in East Asia and grew in abundance in North America. By 1860, Americans had invited ginseng growers from Korea to cultivate it.

Han also addressed U.S. aid during the Korean War and subsequent economic growth in post-war South Korea.

“Today, Korea is a prosperous, developed democracy with the world’s 15th largest economy and a per capita income close to $20,000,” he said with pride. South Korea had a per capita income of less than $100 at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Ultimately, Han steered his lecture toward the modern alliance between the U.S. and Korea and North-South Korean relations. He informed listeners about the 2009 joint vision that Presidents Barack Obama and Lee Myung-bak signed, reaffirming South Korea’s security against its northern neighbor.

To emphasize the urgency of the situation, Han also spoke about the March 2010 North Korean attack on a South Korean naval vessel, which ultimately killed 46. He reminded the crowd of the Six-Party Talks initiative, which aimed to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear weapon situation, that Kim Jong Il abandoned last year. Han said a resumption of the talks is still a goal of Seoul.

The end of Han’s lecture highlighted the importance of the upcoming G20 meeting and the pending FTA approval by the U.S. The bilateral free trade agreement was negotiated during former President Bush’s second term and signed in 2007.

The KORUS FTA, as Han called it, was about three things: “jobs,” “economic growth” and “security and shared values.”

He said the Department of Commerce estimated the creation of 70,000 new jobs if the FTA is implemented. But if the agreement is not approved, the U.S. will lose more than 345,000 jobs to the European Union and Canada.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated that the passage of the FTA will increase U.S. manufactured good exports by $11 billion, reduce the trade deficit by $4 billion and add $12 billion to U.S. GDP.

Han urged the U.S. to approve the agreement.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” he said in conclusion. “It was trade that brought our two countries together some 250 years ago and it is trade that we are counting on to help keep us together for another 250 years.”