George Bush photo

Remarks to the Korean National Assembly in Seoul

January 06, 1992

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Secretary General, Assemblyman Park, and distinguished members of this National Assembly: Believe me, it is a great honor to return once more to this house, the symbolic center of Korean democracy. As the Speaker said, I first came to this chamber in February of 1989, just one month after taking office, and Barbara and I still recall the warm welcome we received then from the people of Korea. And here we are, celebrating our 47th wedding anniversary with all you young people. And you make us feel very much at home, and I'm grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you very much.

February of '89, that was nearly 3 years ago. In the short time since then, we have seen our world transformed. The epic cold war struggle between the forces of freedom and the Communist world came to an abrupt end; with God's mercy, a peaceful end. Gone is the Berlin Wall, the Warsaw Pact, not simply the Soviet empire but even the Soviet Union itself. Everywhere we see the new birth of democratic nations, a new world of freedom bright with the promise of peace and prosperity.

During my visits these last few days to Australia, to Singapore, and now to your wonderful country, Korea, I have stressed that this new world of freedom presents us with fresh and demanding challenges: Meeting new requirements for global security and stability, promoting democracy, and enhancing world economic growth and prosperity.

Korea, too, is a part, an important part, of this changing world. Indeed, you are at the center of these challenges. At home your country is developing its own democratic and free market traditions, and in the world Korea is helping to shape a changing security and geopolitical landscape. Your influence in world affairs is enhanced by the fact that at long last Korea is assuming its place as a full member of the United Nations. Mr. Speaker, as President of a nation that fought under the U.N. flag to keep Korea free and to establish the conditions for growth and prosperity, we share your pride in what you have justifiably achieved.

Yes, change transforming our world, a revolution is on our hands. And yet, the cold war continues to cast its shadow over Korea. Just 25 miles north of this capital city, the Korean Peninsula is still cleaved by that DMZ, the ribbon of land that separates one people yearning to live in peace. Who can calculate the human cost: 10 million Koreans separated now from family members for 4 decades.

For 40 years, the people of Korea have prayed for an end to this unnatural division. For 40 years, you have kept alive the dream of one Korea. The winds of change are with us now. My friends, the day will inevitably come when this last wound of the cold war struggle will heal. Korea will be whole again. I am absolutely convinced of it.

For our part, I'll repeat what I said here 3 years ago: The American people share your goal of peaceful reunification on terms acceptable to the Korean people. This is clear. This is simple. This is our policy.

Recently, North and South made progress in easing tensions, in exploring opportunity for peace and understanding through direct talks at the prime ministerial level. This search has produced positive results: First, December's historic nonaggression agreement, and then, on the eve of this new year, an agreement to forever ban nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. These positive developments come at a critical time of rising concern, at a time when North Korea's pursuit of nuclear arms stands as the single greatest source of danger to peace in all of northeast Asia.

This progress is a tribute to the policies of President Roh and the Government of this Republic. South Korea has systematically eliminated any possible action that could justify the North's pursuit of such deadly weapons. This Republic has rejected all weapons of mass destruction, and to give further meaning to this pledge, South Korea renounced all nuclear reprocessing and enrichment activities. On December 18th, President Roh announced that there were no nuclear weapons on South Korean soil. To any who doubted that declaration, South Korea, with the full support of the United States, has offered to open to inspection all of its civilian and military installations, including United States facilities.

At every point, South Korea's approach was open, sincere, and fair. Each good-faith action increased the call for the North to make a positive response. Today the prospects for real peace on this peninsula are brighter than at any point in the past four decades.

And yet, paper promises won't keep the peace. I call on North Korea to demonstrate its sincerity, to meet the obligations it undertook when it signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty 6 years ago. North Korea must implement in full all IAEA safeguards for its nuclear facilities without exception, and I might add, without delay. Moreover, North Korea, together with the Republic of Korea, should proceed to implement the inspection and verification portions of their unprecedented joint declaration on nonnuclearization, signed one week ago. Prompt action by the North will mark a new milestone on the path toward peace.

But let this be clear: The United States has and will support the security aspirations of its ally in the South in the cause of peace.

We are pleased that our September announcement about nuclear weapons helped lend momentum to the effort to make Korea safe from nuclear proliferation. And we've worked with others in the region to send a multilateral message to North Korea. And we've been willing to open our facilities to Korea to challenge North Korea to do the same.

We've also left no doubt that we'll back these overtures for peace with a demonstration of our military resolve. As you know, we've postponed our plan to reduce the number of American troops stationed here in Korea. Let there be no doubt: The people of this republic should know that the United States commitment to Korea's security remains steady and strong.

I renew that pledge as an ally, as President of a nation that shares your devotion to democracy and self-determination. Down through the decades, from Korea to Kuwait, from the American soldiers who gave their lives at Inchon, Pork Chop Hill, to the Korean forces who stood with us in Desert Storm, our two nations have upheld the international ideal that between nations and not just within them, common interests call for common action.

Today, in many quarters, that ideal is being questioned, even criticized. There are those who see the many changes in our world and say, "Well, our work is done." They urge us to declare victory, celebrate the collapse of our common enemy, and then come on home. They fail to recognize a fundamental fact: The cold war era changed our world forever. We did far more than hold a common enemy at bay. Together, we built a new world: A system of collective security to keep the peace, a system of free trade that fueled a generation of prosperity the likes of which the world has never seen, and a common commitment to political openness and liberty that now sustains a worldwide movement toward democracy.

The passing of the cold war must not mark the beginning of a new age of isolationism. The nations of the free world share more than a common history; they share a common destiny. There is no going back, only forward.

The developments of the past 40 years, the dramatic expansion of democracy, the geometric increase in global trade has created a system of common interests. To turn our backs now, to walk away after this great victory for freedom, or to retreat behind high trade walls into regional blocs would turn triumph to tragedy.

America is a Pacific nation. We will remain engaged in Asia, as we are in the other regions of the world. But just as the world itself stands on the threshold of a new era, so too we now enter a new era in U.S.-Korean relations. What began in the heat of the war as a military alliance has grown into a broader relationship, a partnership anchored in shared economic interests and common political ideals.

Korea's new role will, yes, mean new responsibilities, a new partnership based upon Korea's growing capabilities and increased ability to contribute to peace and prosperity in the Pacific and beyond.

The world now recognizes Korea as an economic powerhouse. We are pleased that over the past few years that we've narrowed our current account imbalance from about $9 billion to about $1 billion and that U.S. exports to Korea have increased at a pace of more than 7 percent over the last 2 years.

We must acknowledge the equally important strides that you have made in strengthening the institutions of democracy. Even in the 3 years since my last visit, the change is clear for all to see. With the encouragement of President Roh, this National Assembly now plays a greater role in Korean politics. I understand you have some very avid debates in this chamber. Well, join the club. That's what we do at home all the time. That's democracy in action.

In 1992 alone, South Korea will hold at least three elections at the local and national levels. Across the country, democracy is giving voice to new ideas and opinions, and since 1990 alone, 10 new daily newspapers and nearly 1,000 other new publications.

Free speech, free elections, private property: these are the cornerstones of the new world order, fundamental freedoms that secure peace and prosperity.

Consider your own history, a case study in contrasts between North and South. More than four decades ago, the South, with less land, fewer resources, and more people than in the North, set its course for free enterprise and free government. North Korea, well, they traveled a different path. Blessed with rich resources and a stronger industrial base, the regime that ruled the North marched its people down the dead-end path of totalitarianism and international isolation. Its economy stalled. Its society suffocated. Its cohorts went their own way.

Today, the South is a dynamic participant in the community of democratic and market-oriented societies. The South is at peace, free, and prosperous, with an average annual income four times higher than in the North and a history of double-digit growth that has propelled it into the front ranks of the world's economies.

And now, you must build on your success. You must sustain the conditions that fueled your phenomenal growth. Korea did not raise the living standard of its people by closing itself off from the outside world. Today, Korea stands as America's seventh largest trading partner. With me on my trip are executives from some of America's leading companies, many with interests in expanding business with Korean companies and Korean consumers. America is not only your largest market, Korea's largest market, but a leading source of the technology and capital that helps fuel your economic growth. This nation owes much of its economic miracle to open markets abroad. Korea must see clearly that prosperity in the new century lies in open markets.

Trade is one activity where the interests of all nations intersect. Let me repeat here what I've said in Australia and in Singapore: At home in the United States, especially during tough economic times, my highest priority must be jobs and economic growth. But my allegiance to the American worker is not at odds with the interests of the Korean consumer. Trade is not a zero-sum game enriching some nations at the expense of the others. Growing trade provides the people of both our nations with higher standards of living and better lives.

Pressures for protectionism are building. We see it in my country with the new breed of economic isolationists who urge us to build barriers to expanding trade and opportunity. We see it here in Korea in a frugality campaign that's been used by too many to discourage imports. But wherever this impulse shows itself, we must fight back for trade that is free, fair, and open.

We must heed the lessons of history. For the first half of this century, great nations sought refuge in isolationism and in its economic accomplice, protectionism, and the world succumbed to the ravages of war, and think back, to depression. Since the Second World War, free nations large and small pursued a common course, forging alliances and fostering trade, and the world as a consequence has enjoyed an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity.

The history of this century is not lost on Korea. As a founding member of APEC, the forum for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, you have worked with your economic partners in the region to bring down barriers to trade. But the key test, the key test now is before us in this Uruguay round. As an emerging economic power, Korea has shared greatly in the bounty of an open and growing world trading system. That reward carries with it profound responsibilities. Korea must now shoulder with other trading nations the burden of leadership on behalf of the multilateral trade regime.

As I mentioned before the business leaders of our two nations earlier today, I am urging at each stop of my trip that we use the Dunkel draft text as the basis for successfully concluding the GATT round of trade talks. Korea has the opportunity to help fight the forces of protectionism, to help tip the balance in favor of free and fair trade policies that remain the world's one path to prosperity.

Our two nations share a history written in the blood of our people. The bonds forged in the cold war, at the brink of Korea's mortal danger, have grown stronger through the years. Forty years ago, the free world made your struggle their own struggle. Our forces fought here for a future free from tyranny. And you did far more than survive. In the shadow of the cold war, you showed what we can achieve so long as we are free.

For four long decades, Korea has stood at the frontier of freedom, vigilant, determined, never wavering in its commitment to the great cause of independence and liberty. So today, as we enter a new world, the world we fought for 40 years ago, Korea stands with us: a steadfast friend, ally, and partner; proud, prosperous, and free.

I salute you. I congratulate you. And may I thank you for this warm welcome. And may God bless the wonderful people of Korea. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:40 p.m. at the National Assembly Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Park Jyun Kyu, Speaker of the National Assembly; Park Sang Moon, Secretary General of the National Assembly; and Park Chung Soo, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and National Unification Committee.

George Bush, Remarks to the Korean National Assembly in Seoul Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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