02/05/15 – Ambassador Mark Lippert Remarks at Korea Employers Federation 38th Top Management Forum

Ambassador Mark Lippert

Ambassador Mark Lippert

Employers Federation 38th
February 05, 2015 :

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you, Chairman Kim, for inviting me to address the Korea Employers Federation 38th Top Management Forum.  I am honored to be here today to speak on U.S.-Korea relations.

Let me start out with the most important point: U.S.-Korea relations have never been stronger.  

And we are increasingly using these historically strong ties to solve bilateral issues between our two governments, work on complex regional issues and respond to global challenges — shaping the future vision of our world. 

Not only is this cooperation stronger, it also is deeper and broader.   

The US-ROK relationship has its origins in the shared sacrifice of combat leading to the critical security alliance that has endured for more than six decades. 

Today, this relationship has grown into a comprehensive global partnership that flourishes across a range of areas – our dynamic economic relationship, our shared diplomatic efforts, and strong people-to-people ties based on shared values.  

And, before addressing the four pillars of this relationship — our security alliance, our economic partnership, our people-to people ties, and our global partnership — let me pause here to review some of the major accomplishments of 2014. 

In January, we concluded the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that provides important resources to sustain the presence of U.S. Forces in Korea for many years to come. 

In April, President Obama visited the Republic of Korea for an unprecedented the fourth time, reaffirming our alliance and global partnership.

In October, we updated the framework governing the transfer of operational control of alliance forces during wartime, or “OPCON” transfer.  

For only the third time, we also had a highly productive “two plus-two” meeting, where Secretaries Kerry and Hagel hosted their counterparts Ministers Yun and Han in Washington, as well as the annual Defense Ministers meeting where Secretary Hagel and Minister Han finalized important details governing the defense relationship.  

And, while this was happening in Washington, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was in Seoul with a trade mission.

In November, President Obama again conferred with President Park on the margins of APEC, EAS, and the G20 – including a bilateral meeting in Beijing.  

In December, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Energy Yoon and Minister of Reunification Ryoo had very productive visits to Washington. 

Just before the close of the year, we clarified our condensates policy with positive benefits for the US-ROK economic relationship. 

Later that month, we finalized a trilateral information sharing arrangement between the United States, Republic of Korea, and Japan – allowing us to increase regional security cooperation to counter the very serious nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea.  

Throughout last year, we made progress on implementing the U.S.-Korea Free Trade

Agreement, the KORUS FTA.  

And, in the realm of energy security, we worked last year to advance towards a successor civil nuclear cooperation agreement, or “123” agreement, that reflects the Republic of Korea’s status as a major global nuclear supplier. 

That agreement also reflects the great importance we both place on nuclear non-proliferation, safety, and security. 

I’ll have more to say on some of these issues in just a moment, but, looking back, it was quite a year of progress and accomplishments.  

One of the reasons that this relationship is what it is today is that neither side is complacent: there are smart, dedicated and innovative people – in government, industry, civil society — constantly working to improve this relationship.  

I would like to address several of aspects of the U.S.-Korea relationship in my remarks today. 

A Strong, Capable Alliance 

Let me start with the first pillar: the U.S.-ROK military alliance.  Very early in his administration, President Obama was deeply engaged in shaping and enhancing U.S. policy toward Asia – something that would later be formally called the “rebalance”. 

Ensuring that our military alliances in the Pacific were modernized, sustainable and dynamic was, and continues to be, a critical piece of this strategy.  

And, of course, a core part of this effort is the U.S.-ROK alliance. 

This Alliance was the foundation of U.S.-Korea relations when six decades ago our two countries signed the Mutual Defense Treaty and the United States pledged its unyielding commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea.

Led on the military side by General Scaparrotti and Admiral Choi, the Alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, now in its 62nd year, is more robust than ever before. 

Today, this Alliance continues to play an enormous role in maintaining peace on the Korean peninsula and contributing to regional stability and prosperity. 

It is evolving to meet the needs of a changing security environment.  We are strengthening our combined defense posture on the Korean Peninsula, ensuring that some of our most modern and capable systems are brought to the Peninsula, and enhancing cooperation for regional and global security in the 21st century.  

Concrete examples of this include: 

  • The already mentioned three key agreements — OPCON, SMA, and trilateral information sharing – that we reached last year mark which significant progress in the alliance.
  • Increased capabilities on the U.S. side such as the Combined Armed Reconnaissance Squadron, the Combined Arms Battalion, and the Armored Brigade Combat Team represent significant upgrades.
  • The unprecedented establishment of a Combined Division will further enhance interoperability and cooperation.    
  • We are working with the ROKs within a combined framework to ensure that new ROK capabilities, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the AH-64 Apache, are integrated and interoperable with ours, especially through the use of annual joint and combined exercises; and
  • We are keeping our efforts to modernize our force posture here on the Peninsula on track by continuing to consolidate and reconfigure our forces into regional hubs at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek and Camp Walker in Daegu to maximize fighting efficacy.  

With all that is being done on the defense side for the relationship, I could go on for some time, but in the interests of time, let me simply say I can assure you that the U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea’s security remains unwavering. 

Both our governments continue to cooperate closely on these security issues, and we both continue to be ready to “fight tonight” to defend this great nation.  


The threats that our Alliance guards against each and every day are those posed by North Korea.   

The United States and Korea are completely aligned in our collective approach, especially on critical areas of North Korea policy: denuclearization of North Korea, working towards reunification of the two Koreas, and underscoring the human rights situation in the North.  

Coordinating closely with our counterparts here in Seoul and other global partners, we have demonstrated to North Korea’s leadership that a diplomatic path is open to them.  

We continue to reach out to North Korea’s government and encourage it to engage in authentic and credible negotiations that lead to the complete, irreversible, and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner. 

At the same time, we have worked to impose costs on the North’s dangerous nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  We have supported Security Council sanctions and increased enforcement to block proliferation and stem illicit activities that fund or support North Korea’s programs.

The international community has been clear.  North Korea cannot achieve the security and prosperity it desires while it pursues nuclear weapons.  The concept of “byungjin” – the notion that North Korea can develop its economy while continuing to develop nuclear and missile capabilities – is simply not viable or acceptable to the global community.

Let me say a few words about inter-Korean relations.  The United States supports President Park’s initiative to resume inter-Korean talks. 

We would hope that the North responds favorably to this offer for the resumption of talks and the two sides can make tangible progress.  

More broadly, the United States supports peaceful reunification as outlined by President Park in her Dresden speech.  We all want to see a reunified Korea that has a democratically elected government, a free market economy, and that protects the universal human rights of its citizens.  We strongly support the Republic of Korea’s efforts as it pursues this goal.  

Turning to the human rights issue, we have worked closely with the international community in putting the spotlight on North Korea’s dire human rights situation as outlined in last February’s UN Commission of Inquiry Report.  We want to see the universal human rights of the North Korean people protected, and accordingly, the efforts at the United Nations are an important part of this objective.     

In February, the landmark Commission of Inquiry report laid out these violations in devastating detail.

In September, Foreign Minister Yun and Secretary Kerry joined High Commissioner Zeid and Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida in a multilateral, high-level event on North Korean human rights—the first such event to take place on the margins of the UN General Assembly. 

Our mutual efforts succeeded in obtaining overwhelming support for resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly calling for accountability for North Korea’s human rights abuses.  

These efforts will help ensure continued global attention to the DPRK’s grave human rights situation and help us make progress towards the broader goal: improving the human rights situation for the people of North Korea.    

Our Economic Partnership

Beyond security issues here on the Peninsula, the second key pillar — the U.S.-ROK bilateral economic partnership, has taken on tremendous significance in promoting prosperity, innovation and entrepreneurship.  

In short, we recognize that trade is critical in ensuring that consumers get the lowest prices and best value for their money, that both American and Korean citizens have access to good jobs, and that our societies continue to be dynamic centers of innovation that ensure our collective leadership roles into the 21st century.   

The good news is that despite some storm clouds in parts of the international economy, the economic ties between the U.S. and Korea remain vibrant. 

It was a very deliberate decision for U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to visit South Korea on her first trade mission to Asia since taking office.  The Republic of Korea has grown to become the 11th largest economy in the world and the United States’ sixth largest trading partner.  The United States continues to be Korea’s second largest trading partner. 

Both are countries with strong economic foundations and track records of success in partnering together. 

Our ability to work constructively to resolve technical differences, our adaptability to new technologies, innovations and entrepreneurship; and our conviction to effectively utilize our precious resources — including our most important one – our peoples — will be a key factor between those economies that prosper and those that falter in the next century. 

I want to thank you and your member companies for your efforts to increase commercial ties between Korea and the United States, especially support for KORUS.


The U.S.- Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS, has become the bedrock of our economic partnership.  March 2015 will mark the third anniversary of the United States’ most comprehensive and high standard free trade agreement in almost two decades.     

KORUS is Working.

Over the past three years, we have seen two-way trade and investment between our two countries increase significantly thanks to lower tariffs and eased trade and investment restrictions.  

We can also see it in the more than one million Koreans who visited the United States last year.  We can see it in the Korean and American businesses investing billions in each of our economies.  We can see it in the Korean and American farmers who are thriving, even in a globalized world economy.  And, of course, we can see it our record-setting trade volume in 2014.  

KORUS is what helps U.S. firms like Costco to bring a bigger selection of top quality U.S. products to Korea at better prices and invest hundreds of billions of won in the Korean economy.  It enables Hyundai and Kia to employ high-quality American labor to build industry-leading automobiles in Georgia and Alabama.  KORUS is facilitating U.S. law firms to open their doors in Seoul, and the Korean wave to wash across the United States.  

However, as with any complex bilateral agreement, implementation can sometimes be a bumpy road. 

Across our governments, across our private sectors, we have strong partnerships.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together.  Our governments and industry have worked hard to successfully resolve many issues.  

But, we have more to do.    

The U.S. government is committed to engaging with Korea to achieve full implementation of both the letter and spirit of KORUS.  

We look to the Korean government to work with us to resolve trade concerns promptly when they arise, as we have done successfully over the past three years.  

We strongly support President Park’s commitment to fully and faithfully implement the KORUS FTA and her recent initiative to seek deregulation, improve the business climate, and implement new regulations in a transparent and predictable manner.  


Beyond KORUS, there is the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  

Korea clearly understands the benefits of free trade and is a global leader in signing free trade agreements.  It is no surprise that Korea has expressed interest in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, commonly known as TPP. 

We welcome Korea’s interest in TPP.  As part of our Asia Pacific rebalance, the United States is committed to expanding free trade and economic growth with our partners in the Pacific through TPP to create a shared prosperity that benefits us all.

As we have said, Korea’s eventual membership could significantly expand the benefits of TPP.  We will continue to work with Korea with respect to its interest in TPP, keep Korea informed and updated on developments, and help Korea ensure that it will be ready to meet TPP’s high standards.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

In the context of these broader economic issues, let me focus on a critical piece: innovation and entrepreneurship. 

This Top Management Forum has posed the question of how companies should adapt to changing economic conditions.  

I believe both our countries share a common strength in being able to face and overcome economic challenges through innovation and entrepreneurship.  Both our countries see entrepreneurship as part of our economic DNA, as we have benefited from economic growth driven by innovation.

President Obama launched the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which brings together innovative business, government, and thought leaders from around the world to promote entrepreneurship.   He understands that, “entrepreneurs … play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs.”  

Here in Korea, transitioning to a creative economy is a pillar of President Park’s three year plan for economic growth. 

Both Korean and American companies will benefit from continued collaboration.  Government also has a role in creating an environment that nurtures new initiatives and paves the way for innovative new companies to generate high-end, well-paying jobs. 

Our regulators must find the right balance, especially with new technologies and industries, and our economies simply must be ready to welcome and support the most innovative and talented entrepreneurs.

Science & Technology Cooperation

One key area of innovation is breakthroughs in science and technology.  These breakthroughs will drive innovation and future economic growth.  

Both countries enjoy longstanding cooperation in science and technology, reflecting the two nations’ recognition that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research and development are essential to prosperity and sustainability. 

Through our broad partnership across these fields, the United States and Korea are well positioned to reap the benefits of fast-paced changes.


Let me say a word about energy.  Access to secure, reliable, clean sources of energy underpins the economic growth and prosperity of every nation, especially one that is heavily reliant on energy imports. 

The United States is pleased to contribute to Korea’s energy security by sharing our natural resources, as well as by collaborating to advance the energy technologies that will power the future.  

On December 30, 2014, the Department of Commerce provided guidance on long-standing U.S. regulations concerning the export of certain hydrocarbons.  The Commerce Department explained that processed condensates are classified as petroleum products and, as such, are not subject to the general restriction on the export of crude oil.  Since Korea represents approximately 50 percent of the world market for condensates, this is good news for Korea’s energy security, and U.S. companies have already delivered processed condensates to customers on the Korean peninsula. 

In addition, Korean companies will be among the first to receive shipments of U.S. liquefied natural gas. 

And, on the strategic level, just last month we held the second U.S.-Korea Energy Security Dialogue where we discussed ways to increase bilateral and regional cooperation to increase transparency in energy markets and shared ideas for meeting our energy needs while reducing our impact on the environment. 

Female Participation in the Workforce

Another key issue that affects both our economies lies in the field of realizing the most of our human capital.  Both our countries share an interest in promoting greater female participation in the workforce to insure that women are not forced to choose between a successful career and family.  Studies have shown that female employment increases economic growth, and that increased diversity in corporate leadership can strengthen company profits. 

President Park has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key policy goal.  President Obama understands how difficult it is for modern families to balance a hectic work life and family responsibilities.  The way our societies encourage or discourage working parents’ participation in the workforce is of concern to us all.  To address this issue, the White House held a Summit on Working Families, and invited a select group of women leaders from Korea and Japan to participate.  The Summit brought together businesses, economists, labor leaders, and policymakers to discuss a 21st century workplace that better meets the needs of a 21st century workforce and is better for families.  

As leaders of Korea’s companies, you have the opportunity to address this challenge and shape the working environment in a way that better supports Korean women and Korean families, and Korean men so that they can actively contribute to family life. 

Enduring Ties Between Our People

The economic partnership has an important side benefit.  Through a series of relationships and transactions, it brings our two people closer together – often at a personal, grassroots level.  And, turning to the third pillar, the broader issue of people-to- people and cultural ties, this is an area of US-ROK ties in which I place great importance. 

Presently, over 1.7 million U.S. citizens are of Korean descent, and Korean nationals are the ninth-largest group of visitors to the United States.  South  Korea sends nearly 70,000 university students to the U.S. annually – more students per capita than any other major country – while the number of U.S. citizens studying in the Korea is growing rapidly.   

I am proud of our bilateral Work, English Study, Travel (WEST) program, which allows Korean university students and recent graduates to study English, work as interns, and travel in the United States.  Over 2,000 Korean youth have participated in the program since its inception. 

The International Visitor Leadership Program or IVLP helps ensure Koreans in leadership positions will sustain the strong ties between our two countries.  Now in its 75th year, more than 1,300 future Korean leaders have participated in this program including two who later became president –Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung. 

Since 1950, the Fulbright program has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and Korea, and since 1992 over 1,000 young Americans have taught English in rural area schools as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program. 

While the U.S. Embassy engages with the Korean public on a host of shared issues and values each year, private exchanges in arts, music, culture and sports are also robust and vibrant.  Hallyu continues to sweep the United States, as well as many other countries around the globe.

On a personal level, I have been warmly welcomed to Korea by many people and have thoroughly enjoyed both travel around the peninsula and engagement in a number of cultural activities.  Many Koreans have taken an interest in my floppy-eared canine – Grigsby – and I’ve had many fun and light moments talking with Koreans on the street near my house. 

More broadly, I have deep respect for the Korean culture and look forward to continuing to experience as much about Korea as possible during my term here.  And, before I am done here, I plan to visit every single UNSECO World Heritage site here in Korea – along with many other parts of this great nation’s rich history and heritage. 

It’s a great nation and a great people – and enjoying the culture is among the most fun, interesting, and rewarding parts of my job.         

Global Partnership for Peace and Security

Let me close by highlighting our global partnership for peace and security – the fourth and final pillar. 

As our bilateral relations have extended beyond our 60th anniversary (or hwangap), we’ve entered into a new era of cooperation on the global stage.  Currently, the United States and Korea are working hand-in-hand to address issues that affect the security and livelihood of people across the planet.

I want to just quickly touch on a few highlights. 

Korea’s contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and provision of naval assets and leadership to combat piracy in Somalia, are stellar examples of Korea’s increasingly global role.  

This year Korea has joined the United States and other international partners to counter the global threat posed by Ebola.  Korea has already donated over 12 million dollars to the global effort and dispatched two medical teams to join the fight against Ebola in West Africa.   I understand a third team will depart later this month. 

The U.S. and Korea are also cooperating on critical issues like climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.  Through close international collaboration, we are rallying countries to address climate change in an urgent and realistic manner.  The United States has committed USD 3 billion to the Green Climate Fund based in Songdo; and in May of last year, Korea hosted the 5th Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.


The United States and Korea work together to both prevent the global proliferation of nuclear weapons, and promote nuclear safety and security.  Our two countries look forward to jointly conducting international training courses to teach policymakers and practitioners from around the world on how to peacefully and transparently expand the use of civil nuclear power.     

On cyber issue, the United States and Korea share a common objective of an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace, including continued support for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.  U.S.-Korea cooperation on cyber issues is expanding to address these challenges.

The cooperation between the United States and Korea in overseas development assistance demonstrates much Korea has been able to achieve.  Sixty years ago, the Korea was a recipient of development assistance.  But today, Korea is today a shining example of a country that has transitioned from an aid recipient to an aid donor.  The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partner to provide development assistance to places in Africa and Southeast Asia for vital needs in health care and energy.  Moreover, KOICA now has 4,500 international volunteers each year, second only to the U.S. Peace Corps.

In short, the diplomatic relationship now has a global reach and is busy shaping the direction of events on the Peninsula, the region and around the world. 


Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by saying over the past 60 years the United States and Korea have stood side-by-side working with each other. We are now also increasingly working as partners in the global community.  I have given you an overview of the breadth of our relationship, a relationship built on a foundation of trust and shared values. 

I want to close by saying that I am optimistic about our future – optimistic about the strength and resilience of our security alliance; optimistic about our economic prospects and the potential for further  innovation; optimistic that the peoples of our two countries will continue to share, appreciate and respect each other’s cultures.  I also believe that by working together, we can accomplish great things and make the world a better place for our children, including for my own son, Sejun, who was born in Seoul just two weeks ago.  

I look forward to continued collaboration.  Thank you.