Hottest Ticket in Seoul Is in Washington, D.C.

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Hottest Ticket in Seoul Is in Washington, D.C.

With U.S. President-elect George W. Bush's inauguration coming up on Saturday, about 30 Korean politicians are planning to take part in the ceremonies, according to the National Assembly's secretariat.

Most of the politicians justify their trips by saying the purose of the visit is to establish ties with the Republicans who will be entering the White House after eight years of political exile.

The question of the benefits of such taxpayer-funded trips and the methods used to get invitations, however, are controversial.

About 65,000 invitations are handed out to the inauguration, with most given out to U.S. congressmen and other American organizations. The senators and representatives are permitted to give out some the invitations to people who made donations and to their close supporters.

According to an official at the National Assembly, only about four invitations are officially handed over to the Korean government, most of them to the Korean Embassy. This makes it very difficult for Korean politicians to get their hands on an invitation.

Those invited by the chairman of the U.S.-Korea Inter-parliamentary Exchange, Rep.Ed Royce, include representatives Kim Un-yong and Yoo Jae-kun from the Millennium Democratic Party and Park Geun-hye and Hyun Syng-il from the Grand National Party.They will have their expenses paid by the U.S. government. Representatives Han Hwa-kap and Rhee In-je received their invitations from the president of the Heritage Foundation. The rest secured invitations individually or had to ask the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry or the Korean Embassy.

The cost of the visits is also in question. Except for the official inauguration and dinner, most of the privately hosted functions require a hefty donation to attend.

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