Speeches & Transcripts
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS)
[As prepared for delivery]
Thank you to President Park and to Dean Kim for your kind introduction. And thank you to all the students and professors gathered here today for welcoming me to your beautiful campus.
I just returned from Washington, where I was fortunate to attend President Yoon’s State Visit – our country’s highest honor for a visiting foreign leader. In fact, this was only the second time President Biden has hosted a State Visit during his time in office.
This is also my first speech since returning to Seoul, and I can’t think of a better place to talk about some of my takeaways than Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
HUFS students have a global mindset, understand the complexities of international issues, and really embody President Yoon’s vision of establishing the Republic of Korea as a “global pivotal state.” Your alumni pass Korea’s Diplomatic Exam in some of the highest numbers of any schools.
And fortunately for us, many of you have become valued members of our U.S. Embassy team over the years, including many of our interpreters.
I also understand that one of our outstanding public diplomacy interns Moon Chaewon is a current HUFS student and has joined us here today.
Your school’s excellence was also on display in Washington. If you look at photos of our two Presidents meeting in the Oval Office, you’ll notice the Korean language interpreter sitting just behind President Biden.
Her name is Yun Hyang Lee and she is one of the U.S. governments’ top Korean language interpreters.
I’ll let you guess which university she attended.
Great guess! Indeed, Ms. Lee is also a proud HUFS graduate.
It’s an exciting time in the relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea. This year marks the 70th anniversary of our Alliance, and we’ve transformed what was once primarily a military relationship into today’s truly comprehensive global partnership. President Biden put it well when he said that “the alliance formed in war – and has flourished in peace.”
Simply put, our Alliance is stronger than ever. These days we are working together closer than ever on nearly every issue affecting our shared prosperity.
During the State Visit, our two leaders laid out their vision for an expanded comprehensive alliance. It would take me all day to tell you about everything they announced, but here are a few I think matter to you – and might even give you some new career options to think about:
Our two Presidents affirmed the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement remains the foundation of our mutual prosperity. Our trade relationship has grown to over $227 billion worth of products and services each year. That’s a 17% increase from last year alone and 65% greater than when the agreement went into effect.
These aren’t just statistics: this massive growth in two-way trade means more opportunities for Korean companies to sell their innovative products to eager American consumers – and greater career opportunities for Korean young people entering the job market.
Much of our trade these days is in high-value, high-tech goods. To accelerate this trend, our presidents also announced a new, multi-year $60 million education exchange program, which includes the largest-ever technology-focused Fulbright graduate scholarship program in the world. And to support our growing space sectors, NASA will team up with Korean experts to increase our joint space exploration and research. Combatting climate change is one of the greatest challenges your generation will face. That’s why both of our presidents are committed to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and growing our renewable and nuclear energy sectors. Our international development agencies are sharing their expertise to help developing countries strengthen their ability to respond to the climate crisis, too.
But even as our Alliance continues to prosper, we do face – and must confront – the destabilizing actions of reckless states like North Korea. Both Presidents called out North Korea for its dangerous rhetoric and destabilizing missile tests. Rather than using its scarce resources to care for its people, DPRK leadership is focused instead on the development of weapons of mass destruction.
Diplomacy is the only viable way to achieve a safe and stable Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons – and both President Biden and Yoon called on the DPRK to return to immediately return to negotiations.
To ensure we are ready to stand against any threat, our Presidents announced a new forum to discuss the full range of our combined defensive capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense.
Along with our other significant military cooperation, there should be no doubt that our commitment to the Republic of Korea’s defense is ironclad, as it has been for the past 70 years. The State Visit was also a chance for the world to really see the strong bonds of affection between our two peoples.
I’m sure all of you have seen videos of the state dinner President Biden hosted to celebrate our relationship. Watching Presidents Biden and Yoon enjoy their time together was something I expect many of you recognized too — because they looked like a lot like old college friends. During the summit, the world caught a glimpse of the real essence of our relationship: a mutual respect and admiration built between two nations over the decades. But what really struck me from the sidelines was that people were genuinely having a good time. It was obvious for the whole world to see – Koreans and Americans honestly enjoy the same things, especially one another’s company.
We’ve seen it through the boom in Korean content Americans enjoy. K-pop mega group Blackpink headlined one of our biggest music festivals last month, and tens of millions of Americans read Korean webtoons and follow Korean YouTubers.
Just a few years ago, Bong Joon Ho’s film Parasite made international news for being the first Korean film to win best picture at America’s top movie awards ceremony. Now, shows like The Glory or Physical 100 dominate Netflix’s most watched list. It’s one of the reasons why Netflix’s CEO made sure he met President Yoon first thing in Washington to announce Netflix’s plan to invest $2.5 billion to create new Korean shows and movies over the next four years.
But it’s important to remember that our Alliance is not just about our senior leaders. Countless acts of friendship between everyday Americans and South Koreans built and sustained deep bonds between our two countries – and the benefits we all enjoy because of it.
And I’m certain many of you have played your part. Maybe you’ve served your country in the military, standing side-by-side with American soldiers. Maybe you’ve interned at an American company operating here in Seoul – or at a Korean company that does business in the United States. Or maybe you’ve made friends with Americans studying here in Seoul and stayed in touch. Or maybe you are considering study in the United States. In fact, after difficult years of pandemic restrictions, Koreans are once again the 3rd largest group of international students attending American universities.
South Korea has also become the 5th most popular study abroad destination for U.S. students, and the experiences those young Americans have in Korea stay with them for the rest of their lives.
HUFS alone boasts an astounding 75 partnerships with American universities, and those who study abroad build lasting ties that will guide the future of the U.S.-ROK relationship. This kind of collaboration makes my job as Ambassador much easier. That’s because to tackle this century’s most pressing issues, Koreans and Americans will need to work together on the global stage like never before. Fortunately, Korea’s global influence gives all of you a say in what happens in the world, and you clearly take that responsibility seriously.
Which is good, because we need you.
We need you to work with us to find solutions to the climate crisis. We need you to continue standing up for our shared democratic values, such as respect for human rights. And we need you to keep speaking out against atrocities like Russia’s war in Ukraine. The world has watched in horror as Russia embarked on a senseless war of aggression in violation of international law, killing tens of thousands, destroying civilian infrastructure, and wreaking havoc on the global economy. During the summit, President Yoon spoke about how, when North Korea invaded the South years ago, the United States and other democracies didn’t look away – they rushed to defend the Republic of Korea. Today, we face another reckless country invading a free democratic neighbor.
I want to praise the ROK government for helping Ukraine’s vast humanitarian needs, and for implementing sanctions on Russia to make sure they pay a price for this pointless destruction.
I know your generation understands what’s at stake too. During a youth forum we held earlier this year to support Ukraine, I heard how HUFS students majoring in Ukrainian studies ran seminars for students to discuss how the war affects Korean interests and published an open letter denouncing Russian atrocities. I was impressed to see HUFS students actively working to strengthen South Korea’s voice on the international stage.
Our Embassy team has created several programs to help young leaders learn about the big issues that affect our shared prosperity. One that we’re very proud of is our American Diplomacy House Academy, a youth leadership program that teaches students the art of foreign relations directly from our American diplomats. In fact, we’ll be taking applications for next year’s academy in the next few weeks, so please follow our social media pages for updates.
Over the past seventy years, Koreans and Americans have proven the incredible resilience of our partnership, a strong foundation that will help determine the course of the next seventy. Our partnership is so successful precisely because we share the same values and the same vision. We understand that our democracies and our people are our greatest sources of strength. And working together, people like you make our nations – and the whole world – an even more stable, peaceful, and prosperous place.
I think President Biden put it best when he told President Yoon that he believes the “choices we make today are going to determine the direction of our world and the future for decades to come.”
It’s important to remember that our alliance is not just about something abstract that you might hear about on the news. Rather, it is a tangible relationship that we all have a stake in – particularly young people like you. That’s why I encourage you to approach your studies and careers with a global mindset.
Continue showing the world what your incredible country has to offer. Pursue jobs at organizations making a positive impact on the world. And most importantly, continue raising your voices on the big issues that affect you and your futures. Democracies like the United States and the Republic of Korea can only stay strong and vibrant as long as young people actively participate.
In summary, I want to thank you for all that you do – and for all that you will continue to do – to help make sure that our Alliance’s next 70 years are just as prosperous as the last 70 have been. Gamsahamnida.