South Korean President Park Geun Hye Visits U.S.

Photo Courtesy: Cheong Wa Dae[1]

By: Garrett Redfield

This past week, President Park Geun Hye of South Korea paid a visit to the United States of America. In talks with President Obama, she expressed how the US-ROK alliance was necessary for “peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula” and concurred with the resolution of establishing a “world without nuclear weapons.”

This also marked the first time since the Bill Clinton – Kim Dae Joong era that both South Korea and the U.S. are on the same page about how to confront North Korea. Dr. Victor Cha describes the relationship as being “airtight” highlighting that President Park appears willing “to retaliate at any North Korean provocation” while President Obama will no longer “give concessions to climb down from any crises created by North Korea.”

However, the relationship is not all flowers and roses. There still remains a strong divide between the ROK and US regarding the expansion of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Currently, many Koreans are still weary of U.S. beef “due to an earlier scare over mad cow disease.” Therefore, South Korea has only been allowing the importation of “U.S. beef produced from cattle only under 30 months of age,” something the U.S. hopes to change.

Additionally, the U.S. and South Korea hope to come to a compromise regarding the Civil Nuclear Agreement (123 Agreement). On the one hand, South Korea argues that it should have the right, for peaceful purposes, to enrich uranium and reprocess its spent nuclear fuel rods. South Korean scientists stress that since “South Korea has adhered to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [it] should be considered as trustworthy as Japan, which is developing enrichment and reprocessing technologies.” However, under the current agreement South Korea is prohibited from doing either and receives enriched uranium from the U.S. In her address to Congress, President Park emphasized that any new agreement needs to be “modernized [and] mutually beneficial.”

On the other hand, the U.S. fears that if it allows South Korea to enrich uranium and reprocess its spent fuel rods that it will lead to nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula; something the U.S. hopes to avoid. Thus far, the U.S. “has expressly shown disinterest in South Korean desires for a full nuclear fuel cycle.”

 

Garrett Redfield is a Master of International Affairs Candidate at the School of International Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University. As an adopted Korean American, he has a strong interest in Korean Peninsula affairs, and focuses on Korean Reunification. Garrett has lived in Korea for an extensive amount of time, mainly as a former ESL instructor. He is proficient in Korean.


[1] Korea-United States Summit at the White House, http://english.president.go.kr/pre_activity/photos/photos_list.php#photoViewT.

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