Posted : 2013-05-05 20:20
Updated : 2013-05-05 20:20

Park's diplomatic skills to be vetted

President Park Geun-hye smiles at a luncheon with heads of foreign companies and foreign chambers of commerce in Cheong Wa Dae in this file photo taken on April 11.
Korea Times photo by Ko Young-kwon

President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula in Cheong Wa Dae in this file photo taken on April 12. Park
will make her debut on the global diplomatic scene with a six-day visit to the U.S. where she will meet President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Korea Times

By Kim Tae-gyu

President Park Geun-hye's first destination on her U.S. visit will be New York where she plans to meet U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, also her compatriot, and ethnic Koreans residing there.

She will move on to Washington on May 7 for her two most significant appointments — a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on May 7 and a speech before the U.S. Congress a day later.

After the luncheon meeting with Obama, the two leaders will have a joint press conference to announce a joint declaration.

Addressing a joint meeting of Congress is seen as the U.S. parliament's ultimate respect for visiting foreigners and as Korea's sixth President to do so, Park has intensively prepared for the event.

Park did not arrange any official events for a couple of days before she left Seoul as she prepared for her first overseas trip after she took the oath of office on Feb. 25.

In particular, she has paid special attention to the Congress address as she plans to deliver it in English. "Park worked on every word of the speech draft," a Cheong Wa Dae source said.

Cheong Wa Dae even created an English-language slogan for the visit of "Bound by trust, forward together" to deliver Seoul's commitment to multi-faceted and strengthened collaboration with Washington.

It is the first time since 1945 for two consecutive leaders of the same nation to deliver a speech to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

Cheong Wa Dae officials said the U.S. seems to be offering special treatment to Park in consideration that she is the first woman leader of Korea and 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the two countries' commitment.

After meeting another big name with Korean roots — World Bank President Jim Yong Yong — and representatives of U.S. businesses, she will head toward her final destination of Los Angeles on May 8.

Economic focus

In Los Angeles, her focus will be the economy as she is poised to hold a conference with Korean business leaders in the western U.S. city where many ethnic Koreans reside.

Its theme would be about a creative economy, Park's main campaign pledge that attempts to boost the weakened economic growth rate through investments in convergence industries and venture start-ups.

Park has tried to benchmark the Silicon Valley of the western U.S. where a host of new business opportunities continue to sprout up via brisk interplay between academics and business people.

Park will also have a luncheon meeting with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

After finishing her six-day visit, she will return home on May 10 without stopping in Tokyo unlike her predecessors including President Lee Myung-bak, who did so on his first overseas trip in April 2008.

Japan has traditionally been the second place to visit for incoming presidents of Korea, after the United States. Park seems to be breaking with that tradition as she is expected to take a flight to Beijing soon.

Over the past five years, Beijing has become Korea's No. 1 trade partner. The world's most populous country is also significant since it has a substantive influence on recalcitrant North Korea as its benefactor.

By contrast, the relationship between Seoul and Tokyo has soured of late due to confrontations on the former's easternmost islands of Dokdo, over which the latter also claim its sovereignty.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently further worsened the situations with a series of rightist remarks endorsing politicians who visited a controversial war shrine commemorating Japanese soldiers during World War II.

He enraged the nation's neighbors like Korea and China by trying to whitewash its wartime atrocities — with dubious logic, the new Prime Minister negated the fact it invaded the two countries during World War II.

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