If Yoon moved Americans, he can do Koreans

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If Yoon moved Americans, he can do Koreans

Seo Seung-wook
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Our alliance is an alliance of universal values. Freedom, human rights, and democracy are the very foundation of our bonds,” President Yoon Suk Yeol pronounced as he wrapped up his 43-minute speech to the joint session of the U.S. Congress in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Korea-U.S. alliance on April 27. Yoon’s eloquent English address that drew 23 rounds of standing ovations and roaring applause wowed both Korean and American audiences. Oh Seong-sik, one of the first-generation English instructors, praised his fluency in English and speech delivery, assessing Yoon’s English skills as “beyond” his imaginations. A retired diplomat who dealt with North Korean and American issues for 38 years confessed that Yoon is better than him in pronunciation and speech.

What made Yoon stand out as an orator was a sense of humor and timing. He joked, “BTS beat me to the White House, but I beat them to the Capitol Hill.” He brought representatives of Texas and Georgia to their feet as he mentioned Korean investments in the states. Although they could have been pre-orchestrated, Yoon pulled them off nicely and casually. His confidence under any kind of circumstances could be a great asset on the diplomatic stage.
President Yoon Suk Yeol waves to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate after finishing a 43-minute speech in English at the U.S. Congress on April 27. [NEWS1]

A video clip uploaded by CBS on YouTube showing a 92-year war veteran thanking Yoon for remembering and honoring their commitment to defend South Korea during the Korean War and the president responding back with sincere appreciation drew over 160,000 views. The presidential office said it has received warm responses from American citizens. Lawmakers and the Washington community were not merely impressed by Yoon’s English pronunciation and stage performance. Pundits were more impressed by how Yoon saw through the past and present of America.

“A new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal … For 234 years, the Congress has been the symbol of freedom and democracy … Korea will never forget the great American heroes who fought with us to defend freedom …Today, our democracy is at risk. Democracy is a community’s political decision-making system to protect freedom and human rights … We have for so long protected democracy and the rule of law with our blood and sweat. We must work together and fight the forces of falsehood and deception that seeks to destroy democracy and the rule of law … Together with the U.S., Korea will play the role as a ‘compass for freedom.’”

The U.S.’s traditional values — freedom, equality, democracy and the rule of law — have been impaired throughout the Donald Trump presidency. The indictment of Trump has upended the U.S. political legacy of solving conflict through negotiations and compromise instead of revenge. The Ideological divide also has deepened. The visitor from the Far East has reminded the true American values Americans themselves have forgotten or neglected. Americans have come to see their faces they were once proud of through the mirror of the Korea-U.S. alliance. The freedom the president often spoke of may sound all too familiar to Koreans, but can touch Americans. The Japanese media, including Yomiuri Shimbun, pointed out that President Yoon mentioned the word “freedom” more than 40 times in his speech. Yoon succeeded in delivering a big picture through his address on the podium of the Congress.

Koreans are as fatigued as Americans by the extreme polarization in politics, hostility, and ideological conflict. If Yoon could move Americans, he surely can win the hearts of his people. As the president celebrated his first year in office, he must restart with the commitment to earn the faith of the people.
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