U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Grand Hyatt Seoul, Grand Salon – Lobby Level
June 26, 2020
Thank you, Jim, and AMCHAM members for the invitation to speak with you today. AMCHAM Korea is lucky to have Jim Kim on its team. Minister Sung, Representative Suh, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor and pleasure to be here with you.
I regret that I was unable to attend the AMCHAM’s Inaugural Ball in-person this year, but I understand that even in our COVID-19 world, it was a fantastic event, as always. At the ball, AMCHAM celebrated its 67th year here in Korea, which is timely, because just three short years before AMCHAM’s arrival in Korea, war broke out on the Korean Peninsula.
In fact, just yesterday…June 25th, we commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the start of the Korean War. I’ve long thought of the Korean War as a campaign that culminated in the victory of democracy over communism…and as we look back at the first great conflict in the long struggle of the Cold War, we can fully appreciate the fruits of that struggle in the present-day Republic of Korea.
Today, the Republic of Korea stands tall as the world’s 12th largest economy, thanks in part to its creativity. Indeed, Korea is an innovation-nation. Brilliance, innovation and creativity, are all hallmarks of a free society, and everywhere you look from Seoul, to Daejeon, to Daegu and Busan, you see examples of Korea’s leading-edge culture and commitment to excellence. This is what the Republic of Korea has come to be known for. South Korea is indeed a free country…a vibrant and prosperous nation that pulses with hope and optimism… a key leader and a beacon of light in Asia.
As the ROK has changed and developed over the years, so has the U.S.-ROK Alliance. The Alliance is dynamic, and we’ve built a multi-dimensional partnership reinforced by shared values, shared concerns, and common economic interests, all underpinned by deep people-to-people ties.
Our bilateral commercial and economic ties are a prime example of this dynamism. Korean exports have long found an open market in the United States and we remain the second biggest export destination for quality Korean goods. Despite decreased U.S. demand, American factory closures, and supply chain disruptions, the good news is that U.S. exports continue to rise and – pre-COVID – our bilateral trade numbers were on a four year increase, reaching a record $172 billion in two-way trade in good and services. Of course, the post-COVID numbers remain to be seen.
While COVID-19 has put a clear damper on both global and Korean economic growth, and has forced us to put many normal business activities on hold, we continue to pursue our key, bilateral commercial initiatives in close coordination with AMCHAM, notwithstanding the limitations imposed by COVID 19. To name just a few examples:
Our focus remains on the implementation of KORUS. We hold meetings with our ROK counterparts on agricultural, pharmaceuticals, financial services and ICT issues, and I’m optimistic about what the close cooperation between our two countries will bring to bear.
We continue to pursue ways to support the advancement of cutting-edge U.S.-based technology and are monitoring Korean regulations of this technology…and the protection of data and privacy concerns. We are closely following how the Telecommunications Business Act will be implemented.
And last, but not least, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific remains a priority, particularly in terms of cyber security issues, transparent and fair financing of infrastructure and energy projects, and women’s economic empowerment.
Looking ahead, and especially toward the day when we emerge from the cloud of COVID, we will continue to foster our strong partnership with AMCHAM in helping Korean and American companies lead the world with innovative and cutting-edge technologies, to protect Americans and American interests and values, and to advance our commercial ties.
The impact of COVID has been devasting, and the idea of returning to a level of normalcy will require a concerted effort between government officials, healthcare professionals and business leaders. American companies are known for their ingenuity, innovation, and grit.
It’s because of these attributes that you are asked to share best practices for surviving COVID and leading beyond COVID. We’re certainly living in extraordinary times. I commend AMCHAM for its focus on strengthening U.S.-Korea commercial ties and advancing the dialogue on the opportunities and challenges before us.
Thank you for your time.