More than a photo opThe Grand National Party presidential candidate, Lee Myung-bak, will meet with American President George W. Bush in the White House on about Nov. 15 or 16. It is rare that a U.S. president meets an opposition party’s presidential candidate if a country’s election is drawing near. Also, this is the first time that a U.S. president will meet Korea’s opposition party presidential candidate.
Irrespective of the history, it is good that a strong candidate has the chance to share opinions with the president of Korea’s key ally. Under the incumbent administration, Koreans have worried about a weakened Korea-United States alliance. The alliance has sustained Korea’s security.
It is good that President Bush will meet with Lee, but we have to ask why the U.S. accepted a request for this unprecedented meeting. It leads to complicated questions.
The Korean incumbent administration portrayed Korea’s relation to the United States as a submissive one, and the Korean president stubbornly said we Koreans should be able to speak their minds about the United States. The Korean administration misbehaved towards its ally and made remarks in favor of North Korea. The Korean government said there was no problem in Korea-U.S. relations, and that the two succeeded in restoring mutual trust. But this is not true.
The timing of the meeting implies that Lee and Bush planned to meet soon after the upcoming South-North Korean summit. The other day, President Bush called North Korea a brutal regime. He now plans to meet with Korea’s opposition party presidential candidate at a time when the Korean government will be boasting its summit achievements.
The timing seems to be an attempt to prevent South-North Korean relations from improving too quickly in light of North Korea’s nuclear issues. The meeting may be an advance warning to President Roh not to make unreasonable agreements with North Korea and pass heavy burdens to the next administration.
We do not know how the meeting between Bush and Lee will affect Korea’s presidential election. Anti-Americanists will want to use the meeting as an opportunity to instigate anti-American sentiment, but people who think the Korea-U.S. alliance is important will be relieved.
Lee should do more than just taking photos with Bush. We hope that he will explain that the Korean government’s remarks do not reflect the opinion of a majority of Koreans and take this chance to restore the Korea-U.S. alliance and trust.