Bill Clinton photo

Remarks Welcoming President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea

June 09, 1998

I am proud to welcome President Kim Daejung and the entire Korean delegation to the United States and to the White House.

We live in remarkable times. In the 1980's, some of the greatest heroes of freedom were the political prisoners of repressive regimes: Lech Walesa in Poland, Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Kim Dae-jung, who faced a death sentence in South Korea after years of unjust and brutal treatment by the government.

How very different things are now. Lech Walesa was elected Poland's President; Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela are the Presidents of their countries; and Kim Dae-jung is here today as President, after the first-ever democratic change of power from the governing party to the opposition in the 50-year history of the Republic of Korea.

The irresistible longing for freedom, human rights, and democracy has carried Kim Dae-jung to the Presidency of his country and now back to America, where he once lived in exile and where there has long been strong bipartisan support for Korean democracy.

Mr. President, you have the admiration of the American people. We will work together to deepen democracy and economic opportunity.

President Kim has spoken of the powerful link between democratic governments and market economies. In the 21st century, nations will not be able to sustain great economic power unless their people are empowered, free to speak their minds and create their own futures, unless there is equal opportunity and the rule of law.

America strongly supports the economic reforms President Kim is pursuing: opening markets, making financial institutions, businesses, and government more accountable. We will work with South Korea as it moves toward a full recovery and broader prosperity, with increased trade and investment that will benefit both our nations.

Mr. President, your leadership will guide Korea's economic recovery, but so will your example. If one man can triumph over such great adversity, then surely the Korean people can surmount their current challenges. The American people, including more than 1 million Korean-Americans who contribute so very much to our country, stand with you.

Let me also reaffirm America's steadfast commitment to our security alliance. We will continue working together for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and across Asia.

As President, I stood on the Bridge of No Return where I saw the sacrifices made by American and South Korean troops to protect freedom. I also saw the young North Korean soldiers on the other side and imagined a future where people from North and South could walk freely across that bridge.

We strongly support South Korea's efforts to find common ground with North Korea. The United States also will continue to participate with China in the four-party efforts to build a permanent peace.

Let me conclude by saying something to men and women all around the world who work to protect human rights: Your work matters. You help transform nations and end tyranny. You save lives. Standing with me today is living proof—Kim Dae-jung, a human rights pioneer, a courageous survivor, and America's partner in building a better future for the world.

Today let us celebrate the freedom that has brought so much hope to the end of the 20th century. But let us also strengthen our efforts to build even greater democracy and peace and prosperity for all our children in the 21st century.

Mr. President, again, welcome to the White House, and welcome back to America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:50 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Welcoming President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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