Remarks to Staff and Families of Embassy Seoul

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Seoul, South Korea
April 13, 2013

AMBASSADOR KIM: Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us.

Before I introduce our very special guest, let me thank all of you for all of the hard work you did under the Secretary’s visit. Many thanks to your efforts, I think the Secretary’s visit is going very smoothly.

As you know, this is Secretary Kerry’s first visit to Asia as Secretary. And it is no accident that the first leg of his first trip to Asia is right here in Korea. Secretary Kerry has long been a strong supporter of U.S.-Korea alliance, and a very powerful advocate of advancing our shared interests and goals on the peninsula. We’re especially grateful that his visit is happening at a rather critical moment on the peninsula, and delighted that he’s spending a few minutes with the Embassy community.

So please join me in welcoming our Secretary of State, John Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Ambassador Kim. Thank you. Good morning to everybody. Thank you so much for taking time to come out on a Saturday morning, early. You do celebrate Saturday, right? (Laughter.) So I’m very, very grateful to you that you managed to haul yourselves out of bed and come over here early to meet with me. And thank you for all the kids who are here. (Laughter.) It’s really terrific to see you.

Hi, guys. How are you doing? Are you doing well?


SECRETARY KERRY: You having fun?


SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) That’s good. I’m glad to hear it. And why – we ought to get all of the kids to come up here. I think all the kids – you want to come up here?


SECRETARY KERRY: Okay, you come up here. Come up here. Is there anybody who see little kids – up here. Come on, come here. (Inaudible). What about you two guys?

All right. Woops. All right. Now – whoa. (Laughter.) We are (inaudible), aren’t we? (Laughter.) How are you doing? When I said “all the kids,” half the audience comes up. (Laughter.) It’s incredible. That’s really, really nice. Who’s the oldest? How old are you, sir?


SECRETARY KERRY: 11. How old are you?

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Anybody older than 11?

PARTICPIANT: I’m younger than 11. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: How old are you?

PARTICIPANT: Five and a half.


PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. He thinks he’s got it all together. That’s fantastic.

Well, I just wanted to – this is what it’s all about, guys, is trying to make the world a better place for these kids and pull people together from different cultures and different countries. And I want to thank you on behalf of President Obama and every – wow, he won’t stay down.

That’s okay, he can – I’m sorry. I think he’s found a purpose in life. (Laughter.) That’s fine. (Inaudible) going up.

I – first of all, join me – I really want to say a special thank you to our ambassador. He does an outstanding job. He is a professional and there’s a reason he’s here. He knows this issue as well as anybody in the world. There couldn’t be a better ambassador to have in a difficult place at a difficult time. Ambassador Kim, thank you to you and thank you to your family. Once again, thank you and your young daughter. You’re – really appreciate it, very, very, very much.

And Leslie – where’d Leslie go off to? (Inaudible.) Thank you for your terrific DCMship. We appreciate it. And everybody, whether you’re a Foreign Service officer or a civil servant or a political appointee, or you’re a part of that great extended family that makes up an embassy because you represent one of the other bureaus or departments of our government, or most importantly, whether you are a local employee, a Korean who is working with us in an effort to reach out to your country, or even a third country participant here.

We are an incredible mosaic. We’re an incredible gathering of the family that comes from all kinds of different walks of life and different places to do one thing – to try to bring a message about the possibilities of living together with other people in peace and harmony and working towards a common future for all of us, and most importantly for the next generation, for these kids. The test for all of us is really whether or not we leave this place – being Earth and the countries we’re in – in better shape for our children than it was left to us by our parents. And you have to work pretty hard to do that today.

The story of the Republic of Korea is one of the great stories. It really is. What has happened in 60 years of friendship from the day of the armistice through the bilateral security agreement all the way up through until today is an amazing story of the people who decided to build a democracy, build lives for themselves, come out of the ashes of war, and build an incredible society. And the difference between the North and the South is the difference of the values of what we’re working for and what other people put up in the way of what we’re trying to achieve.

So this is one of the most important places right now on Earth, because this is a place, regrettably, of some confrontation, but a huge contradiction, huge dichotomy between one society and another, between one set of possibilities and another set of repression, of dashed hopes, between what life can be like if you had the right choices and what life is like when people are presented with no choices.

So you should be very, very proud of what you’re doing. I want you to know that on behalf of President Obama and the larger embassy family, all the 70,000 people working all around the world, we really are grateful for what you’re doing. There are difficulties; it’s hard to be away from home. The reason I asked the question of these kids how old they are: I was 11 years old when I went away with my dad in the Foreign Service. And it’s an experience I cherish to this day because I learned language, I learned culture, I learned about other people; I learned to see the eyes – to see the world not just through my eyes as an American, which I appreciate, and am blessed to be able to do, but because I was able to also see the country I was in through the eyes of the people who live there and whose culture and history we were sharing. That’s a great gift.

So to every single one of you: Keep on doing what you’re doing. Thank you so much for being willing to serve. I think we are the luckiest people in the world to get up every day and be able to go to work, and no matter what you’re doing in the Embassy, you’re an ambassador, because you’re the face of our values, of our hopes, of our policies, to anybody that you come in contact with. So to everybody, thank you very, very much for what you do. Thank you for being here. Thank you especially for getting up early on Saturday morning – (laughter) – to come in to say hi. And I want to come out there and maybe we can take some photographs and say hi to everybody.

Thank you, and God bless. Thank you. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/T03-15