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Posted : 2013-05-05 18:41
Updated : 2013-05-05 18:41

Park's US tour to reset alliance, affect standing back home

President Park Geun-hye waves before leaving for the United States from Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. During her first foreign trip after becoming president, Park is scheduled to have a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Tuesday.
/ Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon





By Kim Tae-gyu


President Park Geun-hye started her five-day trip to the United States, her first as head of state, Sunday, the outcome likely to determine the future course of their 60-year-old alliance as well as serve as a touch stone on her governance.

The highlights of President Park's U.S. tour include a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama on May 7 in the White House and her speech to the Joint Session of Congress on Capitol Hill the next day.

The Park-Obama summit is scheduled to produce a joint declaration on enhanced cooperation on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of their alliance.

In addition, Park hopes to seek support of the Obama administration for her flagship North Korea policy called "Korean Peninsula Trust Process." Her new regional peace pact tentatively titled "Seoul Process" will be unveiled, according to Cheong Wa Dae officials.

"Park's task would pivot around North Korea in order to defuse the crisis," Prof. Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies said.

In the aftermath of the North's atomic test on Feb. 12 and the resultant U.N. sanctions on the Stalinist regime, standoffs between the two Koreas worsened to peak last week when Seoul withdrew all of its workers from the joint inter-Korean industrial park in the North's border city of Gaeseong.

On May 8, Park will move to Capitol Hill to deliver a speech to a joint meeting of Congress, an unusual function as Park's visit is an official working visit that lacks ceremonial pomp and diplomatic protocol compared to state visit.

She will stop in Los Angeles on the next day to have a conference with Korean entrepreneurs there to get the taste of "creative economy," her eventual goal in the economic policies, from the advanced economy.

Park will also meet two most outstanding Korean natives of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim as well as meeting ethnic Koreans in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

Park will also have her every move and word followed by "folks" back home.

Kim Han-gil of the newly-elected leader of the main opposition Democratic Party put pressure on Park, saying, "I hope President Park will make tangible results from her summit (with Obama) such as ways of cooling inter-Korean tensions."

Besides, Park's predecessors got into trouble after their U.S. trip, one of them connected with the late former President Kim Dae-jung. Kim had to express "regret" in his talks with then U.S. President George W. Bush, inviting his political rivals back home to call his trip "humiliating."

A big delegation from the political and economic worlds will accompany Korea's first woman chief executive.

Included in her entourage are Cheong Wa Dae secretaries and such politicians as three Saenuri Party lawmakers of Rep. Chung Woo-taik, Rep. Yoo Ki-june and Rep. Lee Hyun-jae.

Cheong Wa Dae offered to include two assemblymen of the main opposition party members of Democratic United Party floor leader Park Ki-choon and Rep. Byun Jae-il but they refused citing the parliamentary schedules.

In addition, the largest-ever economic delegations tagged along with Park as more than 50 top business leaders accompanied Park including tycoons of foremost chaebol.

Included in the high-profile businesspeople list are Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo and LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo.

In particular, it is the first time for Lee to join presidential overseas trips since 2004. For some reason, the country's richest man never accompanied former President Lee Myung-bak's travels outside of Asia's No. 4 economy.


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