Korean Ministers Share Views on Transpacific Security and Trade

HOUSTON, July 14, 2017 – On June 14, Asia Society Texas Center hosted A New Chapter in U.S.-Korea Relations: Economic Partnerships and Regional Security. Guest speakers included Ambassador Sung-hwan Kim, former Republic of Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs (October 2010 – March 2013) and Professor Taeho Bark, former Minister of Trade (December 2011 – March 2013). Ambassador Chase Untermeyer, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, served as moderator.

Ambassador Kim’s conversation focused on security, missile defense, and détente on the Korean peninsula. He argued that North Korea often tests its Southern neighbors when a new leader comes to office, as has recently occurred with President Jae-in Moon. Kim also maintained that the government of past President Geun-hye Park did not follow protocol when negotiating the Thermal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) with the United States and this will be a key issue for the incumbent administration. Kim stressed caution in assigning the doctrine of a new Sunshine Policy to President Moon and asserted the U.S. role with North Korea, “the DPRK’s longstanding desire is to normalize relations with the United States but this has not taken place…the DPRK believes only the U.S., not China, can guarantee the future of its regime.”

Professor Bark provided an update on the Korea-U.S. economic partnership, in particular the KORUS free trade agreement. Korean conglomerates have already invested billions of dollars into Texas and Louisiana, and South Korea will soon join many of its Asian neighbors in importing LNG (liquefied natural gas) from the U.S. Bilateral exchange is crucial to South Korea’s growth since Bark argued that the country is still in recession from the late 2000s. Comparing the recent downturn to the Asian financial crisis 20 years, he shared that the IMF offered to help South Korea as long as it maintained high public interest rates and low government spending, whereas, he says, the IMF preferred the reverse prerequisites in the 21st century economic crunch.

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