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Public Statements

U.S.-Korean Relations

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

* Ms. BASS of California. Mr. Speaker, it is my great honor to represent the people of California's 33rd congressional district, which is a microcosm of America. The cultural and economic vibrancy of the communities in our district is possibly matched only by its vast diversity.

* I am proud that the 33rd district includes Koreatown, the home to many Korean-Americans and recent immigrants from Korea. By some estimates, there are more Americans of Korean descent living in this neighborhood than anywhere else in the United States.

* It should come as no surprise, then, that my constituents and I have strong concerns about U.S.-Korean relations. We celebrate the military and diplomatic alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea that has entered its seventh decade. We encourage Korean students who come to American colleges and universities to pursue their educational goals, and we welcome Korean businesses that invest in the United States and engage in trade with American businesses and consumers.

* It was with great interest that I was able to travel to the Republic of Korea last month through their Congressional Member Exchange Program. Over the short course of three days, I participated in a packed itinerary of meetings with Korean government officials, business leaders, American diplomats, and members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Korea.

* One truly powerful moment came on my first full day, when I visited the Demilitarized Zone, DMZ, including the Joint Security Area. Gazing out over the barren border area into North Korea was a truly eye-opening experience for me.

* In addition to meeting with Korean executive branch officials--including Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Sung-Hwan Kim, Deputy Minister for Trade Seok-Young Choi, and National Security Advisor Yung-Woo Chun--I was also able to meet with our legislative counterparts in the Korean National National Assembly, including the chairman of the Unification, Foreign Affairs, and Trade Committee (the equivalent of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs), the Honorable Kyung-Pil Nam.

* All of these meetings were informative, productive, and educational. I learned so much about the history and the breadth and scope of the U.S.-Korea alliance partnership.

* Meetings with business leaders were equally fruitful. It was my pleasure to attend a dinner hosted by AMCHAM, the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, and I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with Amy Jackson, the AMCHAM president.

* Similarly, a tour of the Hyundai Motors corporate headquarters and of the company's research and development facility in Hwaseong was particularly valuable. Hyundai has significant investment in the United States, including several engineering and design facilities in California, not far from Los Angeles, as well as in several other states. If one includes all their dealerships and repair shops, Hyundai employs over 30,000 American workers.

* One of the topics that came up over and over during my visit to Korea was the much discussed trade agreement between our two countries. The Korean government officials and business leaders I met tried very hard to persuade me that the agreement should be ratified soon. It is an issue I continue to follow closely, seeking out insights and analysis from a wide spectrum of individuals within my congressional district and beyond. This visit to Korea further expanded my horizons and the knowledge gained was invaluable.

* Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Korean Government for the opportunity to visit their country through the Congressional Member Exchange Program. Prior to my departure, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Korea's Ambassador to the U.S., Duk-Soo Han, and our discussion was very insightful with respect to all the challenges and opportunities on the Korean peninsula. As I represent the congressional district with the largest Korean-American constituency in the United States, I also look forward to returning to Korea to continue building on the relationship with our great friend and ally.


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