AAP staff report
Washington, D.C. (June 2, 2010) – The White House Office of the Press Secretary reports that President Barack Obama offered remarks via video tape at the Korea Society Annual Dinner at New York City’s Plaza Hotel on Wednesday. The President wanted to take the opportunity to speak to the history of the U.S. – Korea relationship and in part to honor General Colin L. Powell, former Secretary of State, who once served in Korea, and General Paik Sun Yup, who commanded Republic of Korea ground forces during the Korean War.
Generals Powell and Paik received the Society’s Van Fleet Award in honor of all Korean War veterans. The annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the promotion of U.S.-Korea relations.
“I appreciate the opportunity to send my wishes as you celebrate the unbreakable bonds between the United States and the Republic of Korea,” Obama stated. “This year, of course, holds special meaning for us all.”
The tape went on to recall that exactly sixty years ago this June, Communist armies poured across the 38th parallel and threatened the very survival of the Republic of Korea. He said his appearance was in part to honor Korea’s defenders – the fallen and those present at the event, including General Paik
Powell served in the U.S. military for 34 years, including in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War before his appointment as 65th Secretary of State.
Paik Sun Yup is Korea’s most decorated officer and author of From Pusan to Panmunjom: Wartime Memoirs of the Republic of Korea’s First Four-Star General.
“The War was a devastating event for the Korean Peninsula, and the cause of incalculable human suffering, but it was also the dawn of the strong strategic alliance and close partnership between the United States and the Republic of Korea,” stated former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, now the chairman of The Korea Society. “The sacrifice made by so many American, Korean, and Allied troops during the Korean War laid the basis for the transformation of a war-ravaged South Korea to the economic and cultural dynamo of today.”
Obama went on in his taped speech to, “salute the resolve of the people of the Republic of Korea – who, from the ruins of war, built an economic miracle, a vibrant democracy, a society where a child could grow up to be Secretary General of the United Nations, and a nation that is now a regional and global leader.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was present at the event, alont with representatives from lead corporate sponsors Samsung and Boeing.
Obama reaffirmed the enduring alliance between the U.S. and South Korea, an alliance he said is “rooted in shared sacrifice, common values, mutual interest and mutual respect; an alliance that is stronger than ever.” He said current events have show that this alliance born in the Cold War is still needed now more than ever. He described the explosion and sinking of the Korean Navy vessel Cheonan as an attack and an unprovoked act of aggression by North Korea which resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors.
Obama said the people of the Republic of Korea and its President Lee Myung-bak have shown extraordinary patience and self-restraint.
“You have shown the world what true strength and confidence looks like, and you have the full support of your friend and ally, the United States of America,” he added.
He went on to note that the two governments will continue to consult closely on the matter and that he would have face to face talks with President Lee this month in Toronto. He pledged to work with allies and partners to ensure readiness and to deter aggression – and to hold North Korea accountable for its actions.
Above all, Obama said the message must be that security and respect for North Korea will not come through aggression but from upholding obligations.
“Going forward, we will pursue our shared vision of our alliance for the 21st century,” he said. “As the host of the G-20 Summit in November and the Nuclear Security Summit in two years, the Republic of Korea will continue to assume its rightful place as a leader on the world stage.
“And every step of the way, our two nations will be guided by the same sense of solidarity and shared sacrifice that has defined us for 60 years – Katchi Kapshida – We go together,” he added. “We go together in these difficult days. And we will continue to go together in the months and years to come.”
Based in New York, The Korea Society (www.koreasociety.org) is a nonprofit organization with individual and corporate members dedicated solely to the awareness, understanding and cooperation between people of the United States and Korea.
Though officially founded in 1993, as a merger of the New York-based U.S.-Korea Society and the Washington, DC-based U.S. – Korea Foundation, the organization has roots stemming back more than 50 years.
The idea dates back to 1957, when a group of prominent Americans led by General James A. Van Fleet, former commander of U.S. armed forces at the conclusion of the Korean War, established the first nonprofit dedicated to U.S. – Korea relations.