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Secretary Antony J. Blinken At a State Luncheon in Honor of Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-Yeol

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Please, take a seat.  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone.  Please take a seat.  Good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department.  President Yoon, Mrs. Kim, it is a great pleasure to have you here with us today.

Now, some of you may have heard this and actually seen it, but last night President Yoon – (laughter) – brought down the house at the state dinner – (applause) – singing “American Pie.”  So, Mr. President, I want you to know we have two great American musical giants with us here today, Herbie Hancock and Diane Reeves.  (Applause.)  So if you feel moved to deliver another performance – (laughter) – don’t let the music die, Mr. President.  (Laughter.)

Evan and I are delighted to join Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, in welcoming all of you here today.  And I know we’re joined by an incredible group of friends, colleagues.  Particularly I want to salute the members of Congress who are here.  President Yoon just came from delivering an extraordinary speech to a joint session.  (Applause.)

It has been 70 years since the United States and the Republic of Korea formed our alliance, making official a bond that was forged by Korean and American soldiers in the crucible of war.  Katchi kapshida – we go together – that was their motto.  And indeed, they lived and fought and died shoulder to shoulder.

From the beginning, American and Korean leaders understood that our alliance was about more than our two nations.  President Eisenhower, speaking to Congress, said that it was an affirmation of our belief that the security of an individual nation in the free world depends on the security of its partners and constitutes another link in the collective security of free nations.

It was also a way to create space – space for Korean and American entrepreneurs and innovators, scientists and artists, governments and citizens – to use that security and their freedom to improve our societies in real ways.  And who, looking at how far we’ve come since that time, would question whether our partnership has lived up to its promise?  We see the extraordinary emergence of Korea in virtually every domain around the world, not just as the strongest of security partners for the United States, but in science, technology, the arts, culture.  We have never wavered in our commitment to our mutual defense.  We’ve invested in our shared prosperity and competitiveness.  And we have decades of mutual growth to show for it, including in the industries and technologies that are shaping the future – from quantum computing to renewable energy to biotech.

We’ve invested in the foundation of our strength, our democracies, while also deepening ties to our partners who share our commitment to freedom, to equal opportunity, to human rights, to the rule of law.  That’s why President Biden convened the first two Summits for Democracy, the second of which was co-hosted by President Yoon.  And it’s why Seoul will take up the mantle now in leading the third Summit for Democracy next year.

As we think about all the ways that our countries go together, it’s easy to take for granted our closeness, to see as somehow inevitable the parallel arcs that U.S. and Korea have traced over time.  But the reality is this: the friendship between nations, like all friendships, ultimately comes down to the actions of individuals.

And it’s here that I’d like to express our enormous gratitude to President Yoon.  At a time of tremendous challenge to the international rule of law and the United Nations Charter, to our democracies, indeed to our planet, Mr. President, your principled leadership has helped bring us even closer together and has made Korea a global pivotal state.  And that’s to the benefit of Koreans, Americans, and indeed to people around the world.

Now, it’s not just our leaders who are committed to deepening our friendship, but our people, starting with Korean Americans.  This year also marks the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to America, a hundred or so men, women, and children who arrived on Honolulu’s shores.  Today, the extraordinary contributions of generations of Korean Americans are woven into the fabric of American society, from the sweeping histories of Min Jin Lee’s novels to the explosive flavors of David Chang’s dishes to the exceptional service of diplomats right here at the State Department, like one I’d like to mention today: Julie Chung.

Julie was just five years old when, in 1977, her family moved from Seoul to California.  She didn’t speak a word of English.  Her dad got a job on the drafting floor of an engineering company.  Her mom worked nights washing dishes in a restaurant.  Julie’s mom went on to become a librarian and a church deacon.  Her dad later designed a heating system to prevent O-rings from freezing on space shuttles – that’s what had caused the Challenger explosion – allowing NASA to restart the space missions.  And Julie joined the first cohort of Pickering fellows at the State Department, which encourages the service of historically underrepresented minorities.

Today, Julie’s dad’s engineering company is working on technology that will help the United States, Korea, and other partners who are joined in the Artemis Accord return astronauts to the Moon, including the first woman and first person of color.  And Julie is the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

If these are the threads that are connecting the United States and Korea through a single family, just think how rich, how deep the ties are that are binding our nations together.

So, President Yoon, Mrs. Kim, all of our distinguished guests, I ask you to raise a glass with me – and we’ll even find a glass to raise.  (Laughter.)  To all the ties that make our nations go together, and to all the places that they’ll take us.  Mr. President, cheers.

(A toast was offered.)

And now it’s my great pleasure to turn it over to the Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)

(The Vice President delivered remarks.)

(A toast was offered.)

PRESIDENT YOON: (Via interpreter) Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Emhoff, Secretary Blinken, White House Cabinet Secretary Ryan, and distinguished guests:  I extend the gratitude to you for inviting me to the heart of global diplomacy, the Department of State.  With Vice President Harris, a fearless fighter, and with strong supporters of the ROK-U.S. alliance, it feels as though there is no obstacle that we cannot overcome.  It is truly reassuring.

I heard that the name of this building is the Harry S Truman Building.  President Biden gifted me a plaque with President Truman’s words that I keep on my office desk.  He granted me this plaque last year in Korea, and the plaque reads, “The buck stops here.”  This place reminds me of the devotion and responsibility for freedom and democracy.  And as you are well aware, President Truman in 1953, when communism attacked Korea, he dispatched U.S. forces and also put together the UN Security Council and came to our rescue.  For the past 70 years, the ROK-U.S. alliance has developed into the most successful alliance in history on the soil that was fortified by the sacrifice of Korean War veterans.  The Republic of Korea was able to rise from the ashes of war to become a country with global stature thanks to the power of the ROK-U.S. alliance.

Yesterday, President Biden and myself had an invaluable discussion on where the ROK-U.S. alliance should head towards.  And based on our discussion, I plan to develop our alliance in a way that expands practical benefits for the peoples of both our countries.  Our future will be brighter than the past.  Our two countries will build peace through strength and lead the solidarity of freedom to promote peace in East Asia and the rest of the world.  We will further strengthen our solidarity on cooperation in cutting-edge future technologies, including semiconductors, quantum, artificial intelligence, space, and cyber.  And the young talents of our two countries will learn from one another and build a free, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.  We will also work very closely together in response to pending global issues.

Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, and all distinguished participants gathered here today are the mainstays of the global comprehensive strategic alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States.  We look forward to your continued support as the ROK-U.S. alliance marches forward.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-a-state-luncheon-in-honor-of-republic-of-korea-president-yoon-suk-yeol/

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