Park assuages diaspora in NY

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Park assuages diaspora in NY

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President Park Geun-hye receives a bouquet of flowers from two children on Sunday at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York at a meeting with overseas Koreans living in and around the city. [Joint Press Corps]

NEW YORK - President Park Geun-hye kicked off her first foreign trip Sunday with a meeting with Koreans living in and around New York, expressing strong affection for Koreans living abroad.

The trip, which will include a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House and a speech to Congress later this week, is Park’s international debut as Korea’s first woman president.

The trip is also an opportunity to celebrate Korea’s 60-year-old alliance with the United States and coordinate foreign policies of Seoul and Washington in the face of relentless threats and provocations from North Korea.

At the meeting with 450 Korean residents of the east coast of the U.S., Park ensured them that her government was handling the threats from Pyongyang.

“Our government is countering the North firmly and calmly with a strong security posture and reinforced cooperation with the United States, China and the international community,” Park said. “I understand your growing concerns about the North’s continuous threats, but I assure you there is no worry.”

The meeting took place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Sunday evening local time, and Park stressed that the Korean economy and financial markets remained stable and that companies at home and abroad are announcing plans to expand their investments despite the security crisis.

She also said that the door for dialogue remained open for the North despite the recent shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

In her speech, Park did not hide her affections for Koreans living overseas.

“Whenever I meet Koreans living overseas, I feel thankful, proud and at the same time touched,” Park said. “Whenever your homeland faced a hardship, Koreans living in the United States always moved first to help us.”

Park said her vision was to establish a global network of Koreans by more actively engaging the 7.2 million Koreans living around the world and utilizing their talents.

She also promised that her government will offer more opportunities to Koreans overseas to make contribution to their homeland. To this end, she promised to remove obstacles that hinder their activities in Korea.

“There is the complicated matter of easing restrictions on dual citizenship,” Park said. “And there are easier tasks such as issuing resident identification for Koreans living overseas. I will pay specific attention to the matters that are of your interest and resolve them.”

Park’s vision of a global Korean network was acted upon when she recruited Korean-American telecom entrepreneur Kim Jeong-hun as her initial choice to head her ambitious Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. Although Kim gave up his nomination out of frustration with Korean politics, Park made clear Sunday that she will continue to promote her vision.

Park also urged overseas businessmen to support her plan to offer more opportunities to Korean youngsters to work in global markets.

Park was a well-known advocate for providing overseas Koreans the right to vote throughout her political career. Her efforts bore fruit when she won her victory in December in the first presidential election in which overseas Koreans were allowed to cast ballots.

Park will hold two more meetings with Korean residents in Washington and Los Angeles later this week.

“Even before she became president, Park has always tried to meet with Koreans living abroad whenever she visits other countries,” Ju Chul-ki, senior secretary for foreign affairs and national security, said.

The Korean residents who attended the New York event received Park with passionate support. During her speech, Park received 15 rounds of applause and a standing ovation afterward.

About 450 Koreans joined the meeting. Ron Kim, a member of the New York State Assembly, Juju Chang, an ABC news anchor, and Dong-chan Kim, head of the Korean American Civic Empowerment, were among the guests.

“This is a meaningful event because those who voted for Park are gathered here,” said Min Seung-ki, president of the Korean-American Association of Greater New York. “I hope the president will lead our homeland by following her father’s heart for continuous economic development and her mother’s heart to resolve the hardships of the people.”

Park’s father, strongman Park Chung Hee, also visited the U.S. as a coup leader and de facto president, but the two trips couldn’t be more different.

In 1961, Park Chung Hee, took three days to reach the U.S. using civilian airlines. At a meeting with then the U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Park proposed to dispatch Korean troops to Vietnam in return for economic assistance, but the American president turned the offer down. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, accepted the offer.

Fifty-two years later, his daughter used a presidential airplane to fly directly to New York. She leads the world’s 15th-largest economy, which rose from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War through her father’s strong economic development drive.

The largest-ever economic delegation, including Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo and LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo, joined her trip.

Park is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, another icon of Korea’s heightened prestige in the global arena, on her second day in New York. After the meeting, she is to meet with Koreans working at the United Nations.

After wrapping up her stay in the Big Apple, Park was scheduled to move to Washington on Monday afternoon for the highlights of her visit: The Korea-U.S. summit at the White House and her address to a joint session of U.S. Congress.

“Park chose the United States, Korea’s most important ally, as her first destination in order to set the future course of the two countries’ alliance through presidential diplomacy,” Ju said. “It will serve as an opportunity to cement the alliance. It will also be an opportunity for Park to present her ideas and insights as an important woman leader to the United States and the international community.”

During her three-day stay in Washington, the White House arranged for Park to stay at Blair House, the U.S. presidential guest house. Park’s father stayed there as president for four days during a second 1965 visit.

The first event on Park’s itinerary in the U.S. capital city was paying visits to Arlington National Cemetery and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Her summit with President Obama will take place on Tuesday, to be followed by a joint media conference.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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