Remarks to the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the United States

Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
New York City
May 27, 2015

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Chairman Ha for that introduction. Thank you all for coming - Consul General Kim and consular officials, Korean business promotion organizations, and all KOCHAM members and distinguished guests.

I’m glad to talk to business groups, such as KOCHAM, because economic relations have to be such a large part of our overall relationship with Korea. Your companies are big investors in America, accounting for a huge share of Korea’s FDI stock in the U.S., which is now over $31 billion dollars. Thank you.

In 1962, Dow Chemical, a storied American firm, became the first outside company to enter the Republic of Korea after it opened to foreign investment. Since then, your country’s economy has developed rapidly, and our commercial ties have blossomed with it.

The individual investments of KOCHAM members are far too numerous to list, so I’ll just name a few. Korean Air’s hotel in Los Angeles. Lotte’s move to participate in America’s shale energy boom by building a chemical plant in Louisiana. Doosan is using its expertise and capital to build up Bobcat, a great American global brand, and preserving and creating good jobs for Americans in the process. The banks, insurance providers, shipping and travel companies, consultants, and trade promotion agencies represented here provide essential capital and services that everyone else depends on to get business done. All of your companies are essential to modern life.

But, of course, I there’s one more important field – the field that really separates the 20th century from the 21st – and too often separates us parents from our children – digital technology, and mobile tech in particular.

Tech is one of the best known areas of partnership between our two countries. Just over a week ago, I was with Secretary Kerry in Seoul where he delivered a major speech on cyber policy. He chose to give this speech in Seoul because the Republic of Korea is such an important global leader in the digital world. When you consider the fact that South Korea is one of the most connected countries on earth; one of the biggest economic success stories of the last fifty years; one of the most important inventors of digital technology; and one of the biggest manufacturers of tech products; I think it’s fair to say that no other country has benefitted more from the digital revolution.

The U.S. has benefitted immensely from technology as well. As the most innovative country on earth, we have driven the tech revolution. So it’s natural that Koreans and Americans are partners in tech in so many ways. Just in the past month, Samsung made two interesting announcements: that it was investing $250 million in Silicon Valley, and that its CEOs and senior execs would be spending more time in the U.S. on a regular basis, to interact and share ideas with their counterparts at other companies in the U.S. This move is striking because it shows that despite all that Samsung, and other US and RoK companies, have done to help people connect over great distances, we still want to see each other in person. That’s part of why you all are living here for an extended period, and why many Americans live in Korea.

We appreciate the investments, and the jobs you’re creating. And we know you appreciate the talent you’re getting – from creative coders and marketers at LG, to hard-working line workers and expert engineers at Hyundai and Doosan. Our work together at the same facilities brings our nations closer, and it’s good for Korean Air, for Asiana – and for Delta and United as well.

As we look at the many connections between the U.S. and Korean economies, it’s clear that business is good. And that reflects the broader state of our bilateral relationship – the United States and the Republic of Korea have never been closer.

So today, I will give an overview of our bilateral relations, our strong alliance, and our global partnership that tackling issues from climate to economic development and advocating for our shared values around the globe. Then I’ll say a few words about our forward-looking economic relationship, and open it up for discussion.

The shared values and shared challenges we face form the core of our bilateral relationship. So I’d like to use the rest of my time here to talk about that relationship – to give you the larger context of what our two countries are doing together, for each other, and for the world.

The U.S.-ROK relationship is as strong as it has ever been. I was just in Seoul with Secretary Kerry, and it was a highly successful visit. We are very much looking forward to President Park’s upcoming visit in June. These are just the latest in what have been a series of productive meetings between our countries’ senior leaders.

In addition to these leaders’ meetings, we’ve also concluded, in the last couple years, a series of very important negotiations that have moved the relationship forward. We’ve strengthened our alliance through a new agreement on operational control of alliance forces during wartime—the agreement takes into account the evolving security situation in the region and the critical defense capabilities needed to address the North Korea threat. And we signed a new agreement which ensures the continued R.O.K. resources our troops need to “fight tonight.”

Even as we hope and plan and prepare for a brighter, more peaceful, united future for the Korean peninsula, we must still guard against the perils of the present, from North Korea’s nuclear, ballistic missile, and cyber threats, to natural disasters, to ISIL, pandemic disease, and climate change—global challenges that affect us all.

Just last month, we concluded negotiations on a successor civil-nuclear, or “1-2-3,” agreement. This state-of-the art agreement reflects the Republic of Korea’s status as a major global nuclear supplier while reaffirming the great importance we both place on non-proliferation, security, and safety.

And throughout the year, we’ve made progress on implementing the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. This helps ensure that our two economies continue to provide the foundation of shared prosperity that strengthens all aspects of the relationship.

Beyond our bilateral relations, we’re working to make the region safer and more prosperous.

South Korea, along with Japan, Australia, and others, is a key partner in the regional institutions that put our shared values into practice.

We see the emergence of Global Korea in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “ASEAN plus three” group, and in APEC and the G20.

As two democracies, free market economies, and two important allies of the U.S., it’s difficult to overstate the importance we place on good relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan. I am hopeful that we will see continued progress on sensitive, important legacy issues, and an enduring improvement in overall relations in 2015.

President Park’s Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative, and the concept of trustpolitik, show her commitment to contributing to the broader discussion of the Asia-Pacific region’s future.

Of course, one critical issue we never lose sight of is curbing the threat from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and advocating for the human rights of the North Korea’s people.

We’ve strongly supported new Security Council sanctions and increased enforcement to block proliferation and stem illicit activities that fund or support North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. At the same time, we and our partners in the Six-Party Talks continue to make clear to North Korea’s leadership that a brighter future is available if it chooses a different path.

We have gone the extra mile to reach out to North Korea’s government and encourage it to engage in an authentic and credible negotiating process.

But for negotiations to have any chance of success, North Korea must demonstrate a willingness to fulfill its denuclearization obligations and commitments, including those it undertook in the September 2005 Joint Statement.

At the same time, the U.S. and R.O.K. have worked with our partners on behalf of the North Korean people, to shine a bright light on the North’s human rights horrors, and to highlight the responsibility of the country’s leaders.

Last year, the landmark Commission of Inquiry report laid out these violations in devastating detail. There was a multilateral, high-level event on North Korean human rights at the U.N. General Assembly for the first time. And the General Assembly and Human Rights Council overwhelmingly passed strong resolutions calling on the North to address its deplorable human rights situation.

North Korea is feeling the heat. Last year, they even felt the need to send their Foreign Minister to the General Assembly in New York for the first time in 15 years, as part of an apparent charm offensive around the world.

We will continue to maintain pressure on the D.P.R.K. To that end, we support and look forward to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights opening a field-based structure in Seoul that will monitor and document the human rights situation in the DPRK in order to help seek justice for those accountable.

But it’s also important to note that U.S.-South Korea cooperation, and the R.O.K.’s global role, go way beyond dealing with the North.

Secretary Kerry said it simply, “The Republic of Korea has emerged as a key global player dedicated, as the United States is, to universal values like human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.”

It has been a dramatic time for the R.O.K.’s relations with the world, and our global work together. Let me mention just a few highlights…

Last year in Dresden, Germany, President Park Geun-hye laid out a comprehensive vision for peaceful reunification.

She also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, making him the first PRC president to visit Seoul before visiting Pyongyang—or even meeting the North Korean leader—a very significant event.

The R.O.K. hosted the Conference of the International Telecommunication Union, which produced the Busan Consensus.

As the dangers of Ebola heated up, South Korea stepped forward. We are pleased that the ROK provided both financial assistance, and three teams of health care workers on the ground in Sierra Leone. The Ebola outbreak is not done, and we must all remain vigilant.

The U.S. and Korea work together to spur development and seize economic opportunities around the globe. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Korea International Cooperation Agency signed a memorandum of understanding just last year that highlights our strengthened collaboration on maternal and child health in Ghana and Ethiopia; our cooperation on developing the energy sector in Ghana in support of the Power Africa Initiative; our cooperation on climate change in Vietnam; and our partnership on innovative approaches to what we call “Grand Challenges for Development,” and public-private partnerships.

This year, Korea is poised to drive further progress on all these issues…

It will be an important player in fighting disease as host of the Global Health Security Agenda.

Within the last month, Korea has pledged $11 million and sent more than 50 medical, and search and rescue workers to assist in Nepal earthquake relief efforts.

As we face water challenges around the world, South Korea is hosting the triennial World Water Forum, a hugely important gathering of tens of thousands of water policymakers and practitioners.

Korea is hosting the secretariat of the new U.N. Green Climate Fund, to address perhaps the greatest threat facing our entire planet—global warming.

The R.O.K. is an important player at the United Nations, here in Manhattan and around the world.

This is remarkable when you take a moment to think about it. Twenty-five years ago, South Korea wasn’t even a full member of the U.N. I had the privilege of working with a young Korean diplomat, who is now your foreign minister Yun Byung-se, to change that.

Now, we have a South Korean as Secretary-General. And last year, the RoK wrapped up a very active two-year stint on the Security Council. Korea’s diplomats led discussions on pressing topics, such as how to protect civilians in armed conflict, and how to counter the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

Our ability to advocate for our priorities and advance our values around the world is strengthened by our economic success, so we have accomplished much in recent years to advance our shared prosperity.

An already-strong relationship has grown even stronger under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade agreement, or KORUS. And I don’t have to tell you that your companies have been among the biggest beneficiaries. KORUS also helps supply chains – Korean companies are buying U.S. inputs more often and U.S. companies can more easily use Korean inputs – a win-win that makes both our economies more competitive in the rest of the world.

And more broadly, KORUS has benefitted both our economies. Under the agreement, Korea has become the United States’ 6th largest trading partner with two-way trade in goods totaling over $145 billion in 2014. Nearly 95 percent of consumer and industrial products will be duty free by 2017, creating opportunities for our countries to engage in joint ventures, to make products together, and to engage in friendly competition.

American carmakers, for instance, aim to keep Hyundai-Kia on its toes, even in its home market. Ford had its best year in Korea in 2014, and its best month ever in Korea just last month, selling innovative hybrid and diesel vehicles. It is Korea’s fastest-growing brand. But more important than the performance of any one company is the principle of fair competition – the belief at the heart of the American system that well-regulated competition drives every firm to do better; to be more innovative; to take the risks that drive progress.

Of course, it’s important that KORUS be fully implemented, so that American and Korean companies benefit fully.

Our economic relationship and cooperation extends beyond KORUS. While we are working to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership with our current negotiating partners, we do welcome the RoK’s interest in joining in the future. And aside from TPP, there are many things we can do to strengthen US-Korea economic relations.

I encourage you to support strong intellectual property protections in Korea and abroad. We have a clear shared interest in this—your companies are among the world’s most innovative, and any short-term gain from undermining IP protections will hurt us all more in the long run.

Some of the most important, innovative, world-changing companies in America didn’t even exist, or barely existed 20 years ago—like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Secretary Kerry, in his remarks in Seoul last week, mentioned some of the newer Internet and tech companies cropping up in the RoK, and I hope you view them more as potential collaborators than as simply competitors.

As major beneficiaries of the global trading system and free trade, I ask you to push—both at home in Korea and abroad—for a level playing field for investors; for free trade and global standards; for fair, transparent, and predictable regulations in Korea, to make the Korean market more dynamic, ultimately benefitting all Koreans.

And I ask you to continue giving back to the communities that you’ve joined across America. Samsung’s endowment of a scholarship in honor of Americans who served in the Korean War is greatly appreciated here. Now serving the children and grandchildren of those veterans and others, it continues to make an important impact in making college affordable.

Whenever I speak to American businesses, I encourage them to do the same thing across the region. Corporate philanthropy and social responsibility is at the core of the values that both our countries hold dear.

Building from the strong base of our security and economic ties, I’m confident that South Korea’s global contributions will only get stronger. Both because of the drive and ingenuity of the Korean people, and because of the strength of our friendship. That friendship goes beyond any one moment in time, beyond the relationships between any one set of companies or leaders.

Our relationship reaches back to the founding of the Republic of Korea, and even earlier. And we continuously nurture it, for instance with the large number of South Korean students studying in the United States, and Americans studying in Korea—a number that has risen by an eye-popping 300 percent over the last decade!

Last year, South Koreans were the ninth-largest group of visitors to the United States, spending $6 billion.

These students and visitors are building relationships that will last a lifetime, and as business leaders, you're thinking of an even longer horizon. I mentioned earlier that Dow made the first foreign investment in the Republic of Korea over 50 years ago. And Dow has stayed in RoK, now partnering with LG, SKC, and Samsung to keep pushing innovation forward—both now, and, I’m confident, long after all of us have retired.

So it’s clear that in all things—in security, in business, in promoting our values—the people of the United States and the Republic of Korea go together. Katchi Kapshida!