Yoon Suk-yeol arrives in New York, second stop on trip
President Yoon Suk-yeol arrived in New York Monday, kicking off the second leg of a three-country tour after wrapping up a visit to London where he attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
Yoon was set to deliver his first address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and also expected to hold a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden and some kind of meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“President Yoon Suk-yeol’s message will be a call for solidarity of countries that share the value of freedom in the UN,” National Security Adviser Kim Sung-han told reporters in New York Monday. “In other words, a win-win situation can be produced only when countries that have economic and technological prowess actively help those countries that do not.”
The theme of the 77th session of the General Assembly is “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.”
Kim said the theme of this year’s session is to “search for transformative solutions to complex challenges,” noting that “Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, food security, energy security and war are all intertwined.”
In his 15-minute speech, Yoon is also expected to highlight that South Korea, once a country with a per capita income of less than $100, became a top 10 economic power “because the free world countries, including the United States, believed in and actively helped Korea,” according to Kim.
Ahead of their second summit, Biden and Yoon chatted briefly at a reception hosted by King Charles III in London Sunday and said they look forward to being reunited soon in New York.
Biden visited Seoul in late May for a bilateral summit with Yoon. The two leaders held a trilateral summit with Japan’s Kishida on the sidelines of a NATO gathering in Madrid last June.
In talks with Biden, Yoon could raise Seoul’s concerns over the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and ways to coordinate on the North Korea nuclear issue.
If Yoon and Kishida have a summit, it could be an opportunity for them to try to mend frayed ties, though Seoul and Tokyo often wrangle over the format and agenda of such leaders’ meetings until the last minute.
The two sides struggle to overcome historical disputes stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule, including the issue of compensation of forced labor victims during World War II, but Yoon has pushed for better relations and the U.S. is encouraging expanded trilateral cooperation.
In New York, Yoon will also meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Yoon and first lady Kim Keon-hee will hold a dinner meeting for Korean residents in New York, the largest Korean community in the Americas.
On Wednesday, Yoon will attend a reception hosted by Biden at the American Museum of Natural History.
Earlier Monday, Yoon and first lady Kim attended the queen’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey, seated near other world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and Biden.
Yoon wrote in a condolence book for the queen, “I pray for the soul of the late Queen Elizabeth II and express my deep condolences to the British royal family and people.”
He was able to sign the condolence book Monday after not being able to make it to Westminster Hall, where the Queen had been lying in state, on Sunday because of heavy traffic.
The presidential office on Tuesday brushed off concerns that there had been any problems with diplomatic protocol and stressed that Yoon’s schedule was carried out “in coordination with the royal family.”
Yoon shared the sorrow of the British people and expressed his condolences with the “highest courtesy,” said the presidential office in a statement.
The trip to London “served as an opportunity to further solidify the foundation of Korea-U.K. friendly relations and strengthen solidarity with countries that share the core values of liberal democracy,” it added.
As his final activity in London, Yoon awarded the Order of Civil Merit to Victor Swift, an 88-year-old British veteran of the 1950-53 Korean War and the head of the British Korean War Veterans Association.
The last leg of Yoon’s weeklong trip includes a stop in Toronto Thursday to meet with artificial intelligence experts and Korean residents and a summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]