South Korea’s President Speaks to US Congress

    27 April 2023

    South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol spoke to the American Congress Thursday on the final day of his state visit to the United States.

    The visit marks 70 years of the U.S.-South Korean alliance. Yoon is the seventh South Korean president to address Congress.

    Yoon spoke about the historical relationship the two countries shared. He spoke about the Korean War in which "the U.S. did not look the other way," but supported the people of South Korea. Yoon noted that 37,000 American soldiers lost their lives in that war.

    South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol addresses a joint meeting of Congress, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol addresses a joint meeting of Congress, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    The South Korean president also spoke about the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two nations and praised their continuing alliance.

    "Once a recipient of aid, Korea is the only nation in modern history to become a donor. This itself demonstrates the success of our Alliance," Yoon said.

    Yoon noted that, since the U.S. Congress approved a free trade agreement with Korea in 2011, "bilateral trade has increase 68 percent." During that time, U.S. investment in South Korea has doubled, and South Korean investment in the U.S. has tripled.

    The alliance, Yoon argued, had supplied peace and prosperity to the two sides. Now, Yoon said: "Together with the U.S., Korea will play the role as a "compass for freedom" for citizens around the world.

    He compared those good qualities with a government that has followed, in his words, "the wrong path." He said North Korea, with its nuclear and missile programs, threatened peace in Korea and beyond. Yoon urged speeding up cooperation between his country, the U.S. and Japan to face the North Korean nuclear threat. And he promised to firmly answer the North's provocations while remaining open to denuclearizing talks.

    Yoon closed by praising U.S.-Korea cooperation in high technology and economic trade.

    A state visit

    On Wednesday, Yoon met with President Joe Biden to discuss several issues. These include the military threats of North Korea, how the two nations can cooperate economically, and ways to deal with an increasingly powerful China. Other issues were also discussed.

    Ahead of those talks, the two sides released the Washington Declaration. It is an agreement in which South Korea promised not to develop its own nuclear weapons program. In return, South Korea will have a greater decision-making voice in U.S. contingency planning in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack. The U.S. also promised a more muscular presence in the area.

    A state dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening brought media stars, businesspeople and politicians to Washington to celebrate.

    The event was the second state dinner during the Biden administration. The first was for French President Emmanuel Macron.

    On Tuesday, Biden, Yoon and their wives visited the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.

    I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.

    Mario Ritter, Jr. adapted this story for VOA Learning English from VOANEWS and other sources.

    Editor's Correction: an earlier version of this story said Mario Ritter, Jr. wrote this story. The correction above has been made.


    Words in This Story

    recipient –n. a person or group that receives something

    bilateral –adj. involving two sides

    prosperity –n. a state of success marked by having good things

    compass –n. something that guides good decision making; a device used for navigation that points toward the Earth's magnetic poles

    contingency –n. something that might happen, such as an emergency

    muscular –adj. strong or powerful