Jimmy Carter photo

Toasts at a State Dinner in Seoul, Republic of Korea

June 30, 1979

PRESIDENT PARK. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

This evening, we are honored to have as our guests the leader of our closest ally and the champion of world peace, President Jimmy Carter of the United States, and Mrs. Carter. It gives me a great pleasure to extend to them a heartfelt welcome on behalf of all my fellow countrymen.

I am very happy that this afternoon I had a sincere and fruitful exchange of views with President Carter on matters of mutual interest and a very friendly atmosphere.

President Carter's state visit to the Republic of Korea at this time, I believe, will provide a momentum for further strengthening the traditional bonds of friendship between our two countries and will offer encouragement to all peace-loving nations whose interests are linked to the United States policy toward Asia.

I also believe that President Carter's visit to Korea, one of the most conspicuous conflict areas of the world today, will give him a valuable opportunity to deepen his understanding of the heart of the problem in this area.

It is noteworthy that recently a series of important changes have been taking place in Asia and the Pacific. The developments include the improvement in the Sino-American relations, the Sino-Japanese relations, conflicts in Indochina, with their repercussions, and the fluid Sino-Soviet relations.

In the vortex of these changes, many Asian nations are striving harder for their national security and economic development by fortifying their spirits of self-reliance.

I note, in this connection, that the firm determination and the power of the United States to preserve peace have been playing a significant role in the developments of situation in Asia and the Pacific.

We have been following closely the subtle changes and the developments in this area. We will continue to endeavor to overcome many challenges with wisdom and steadfastness in shaping our destiny courageously.

Mr. President, it is really regrettable that the clouds of war still hang over the Korean peninsula despite our sincere efforts to deter a recurrence of war and to establish peace on the peninsula.

The North Korean Communists are implacably pursuing their military buildup in defiance of the international trend toward rapprochement and of the stark reality of the Korean situation, as well as of the long-cherished aspiration of the 50 million Koreans. The North Koreans have already constructed a number of underground invasion tunnels across the Demilitarized Zone.

In contrast, the Republic of Korea has opened wide its doors on the basis of principle of reciprocity to all nations of the world, including those who have ideologies and institutions different from ours. Furthermore, we have repeatedly proposed to North Korea to conclude a nonaggression agreement aimed at establishing peace—a most urgent task in the Korean peninsula—and to start social and economic exchanges between the South and North of Korea.

At the beginning of this year also, I called upon the North Korean side to open dialog between the responsible authorities of the South and the North at any place, at any time, and at any level, in order to prevent a recurrence of war and to cooperate to speed up the peaceful unification of our fatherland. However, no sincere response has yet been made by North Korea.

But we shall not despair. We shall keep our doors open for dialog in our firm belief that the .day of our national reunion will eventually come.

We want peace. We are making every effort to bring about peace. We will continue our peace efforts.

Over the last generation, the Republic of Korea and the United States have continued to develop a close and effective, cooperative relationship to promote our common interests with the firm conviction that the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula are essential to the maintenance of peace in Northeast Asia and are also closely related to world peace.

Mr. President, it is a common aspiration of the developing countries today that their living standards should be enhanced in order to live in peace without fear of war, to expel poverty, and to restore human dignity.

Even in the face of the threats and provocations from the North, the Republic of Korea has established a remarkable record of continued economic development and made long strides in building our national strength for self-defense and for the safeguard of peace.

I firmly believe that the achievements we have made in such a short period of time without sufficient national resources, particularly after the total destruction from the Korea war, are the fruits of the sweat and toil of all our people. This record of achievements is not only an actual proof that demonstrates the superiority of a free, open society we have defended together but also constitutes a valuable national asset.

Furthermore, as a nation with a 5,000-year history of culture and tradition, we are marching forward to build a welfare society where social justice, humanity, and morality prevail.

We have found a democratic system which best suits our actual circumstances and which is the most effective in solving our own problems. This system upholds freedom based on law and order and assures the full creativity of the individual.

Mr. President, the relations between the Republic of Korea and the United States date back to 100 years ago. During the last three decades in particular, our two countries have developed a very close relationship. The alliance relationship between the Republic of Korea and the United States will remain the bedrock of our foreign policy.

Our friendship, which was further strengthened through the Korean war and and the Vietnam war, has today grown through the promoting of trade, as well as through the expansion of exchanges and cooperation in social, scientific, cultural, and other fields.

We are well aware that the growth of our national strength which we have achieved owes to the friendly support of the Government and people of the United States.

I have a firm conviction that the growth of our national strengths will not only serve the interests of the Republic of Korea but also make constructive contributions to the peace and prosperity of Northeast Asia and the Pacific.

Our two countries, reaffirming the necessity for productive cooperation in various fields, are now entering a new era of mature partnership based on mutual respect and deepened mutual understanding.

I sincerely hope the ties of friendship and cooperation between our two countries would be steadily consolidated as a result of President Carter's state visit to the Republic of Korea and further hope that this auspicious occasion will serve as a powerful propelling force in opening for us a glorious Pacific era in the 1980's.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I now ask you to rise and join me in a toast to one everlasting friendship and prosperity of our two countries and to the continued good health and success of our state guests, President of the United States of America and Mrs. Jimmy Carter.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT CARTER. Mr. President, distinguished officials of the Governments of our two great nations, and distinguished guests:

The Korean people have been famous throughout history for the kindness and graciousness with which you receive visitors and guests. This has been proven again by the warmth and the affection of your welcome for Rosalynn, for Amy, for me, and for all the American party.

I have come to Asia to demonstrate the deep interest of the United States in this vital and dynamic part of the world. The United States has been, is, and will remain a Pacific nation and a Pacific power.

I've come to Korea to seek a new and even more constructive stage in one of our Nation's oldest and most valuable strategic, political, and economic relationships.

What has impressed me most about my visit to your country is the existence side by side of a deep sense of the continuity of history with dramatic signs of rapid growth and rapid change.

The respect and reverence of the people of Korea for your history is visible in the lovely shrines, temples, and monuments throughout Seoul. Ancient Korea had a profound cultural impact on the rest of the world, as was clearly shown by the magnificient exhibition which you recently sent to the United States.

As a former naval officer, I was particularly intrigued by the statue of Admiral Yi in the center of Seoul. I'm told that the "turtle boats" of the Admiral commanded in the 16th century were the world's first ironclad naval vessels. I suspect that in his time these Korean ships were as new and revolutionary as the nuclear submarines which I helped to develop.

My visit with our combat troops last night and this morning, Mr. President, was a reminder that in our more recent history, tens of thousands of your countrymen and mine fought and died side by side to defend this country against aggression. Everyone must know that Koreans and Americans will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder to prevent aggression on this peninsula and to preserve the peace. Our military commitment to Korea's security is strong, unshakable, and enduring.

The security interests of the United States are directly involved in that commitment. The vital interests of four great powers intersect in this very region today. That is why the maintenance of peace on the Korean peninsula is so vital to the international community.

Evidence of change in Korea is all around us. You can see among the Korean people the dynamism, the creative energy and dedication that have produced Korea's economic miracle out of a nation once so badly scarred by war.

I am impressed that the benefits of prosperity are widely shared by the Korean people. I understand that the income, for instance, of the average rural family in Korea now exceeds that of its urban counterpart. That accomplishment is almost unique among developing nations and should be a source of special pride to you.

Compare your progress with that of the economy in the North. The Republic of Korea is proof that a free economy is the clearest road to shared prosperity and a better life for all.

We also believe strongly in the United States that a free society is the key to realizing the full potential for development and growth.

There is a growing consensus among the international community about the fundamental value of human rights, individual dignity, political freedom, freedom of the press, and the rule of law. The free expression of ideas stimulates innovation and creativity. The right to participate in the political process helps to unite a country in the pursuit of common goals.

There is abundant evidence in Korea of the dramatic economic progress a capable and energetic people can achieve by working together. I believe that this achievement can be matched by similar progress through the realization of basic human aspirations in political and human rights.

Accelerating change is also the central fact of life throughout the international community in recent years—nowhere more so than in Asia, the home of one-third of the world's people today. China has turned outwards toward the United States, Japan, and the Western world in search of modern techniques and new relationships. Japan has assumed a position of new global influence. Korea, always strategically vital, has become a world economic force. The unity of the ASEAN nations is becoming a stabilizing factor throughout Southeast Asia.

Today we are entering a more mature stage in the U.S.-Korean relations. Our success will depend on whether we can take advantage of both historical continuity and dynamic change to foster progress in the areas which concern us both. Cooperation is the key.

We will cooperate to keep the Republic of Korea safe and secure. There need be no concern about this. As Korea grows stronger, the United States will do its part to preserve the military balance and to deter aggression.

We must take advantage of changes in the international environment to lower tensions between South and North and, ultimately, to bring permanent peace and reunification to the Korean peninsula.

We must work together to build a world in which the rule of law and the freedom and dignity of the individual govern all the affairs of mankind.

Finally, Mr. President, you have a saying in Korea, "Even something as light as a piece of paper can be lifted more easily together." None of the goals I've mentioned are light or easy. But I'm convinced that we can achieve them by working together in the spirit of cooperation and friendship that has united us down through the years.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to rise and join me in a toast to President Park, to the great people of the Republic of Korea, and to our common efforts for cooperation, for friendship, and for peace.

This is an extraordinary occasion, and I would like to make an extraordinary request, that we jointly honor a man who has served both our countries so well. With your permission, Mr. President, I would like to ask General Vessey to join us before this group.

This is a citation to accompany the award of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to John W. Vessey, Jr.

"General John W. Vessey, Jr., United States Army, distinguished himself by exceptionally distinguished service as a Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command, and R.O.K.-U.S. Combined Forces Command, and as Commander, United States Forces, Korea, Eighth United States Army, during the period November 1976 to June 1979.

"General Vessey's superb performance has been clearly evidenced by outstanding leadership and managerial skills. With a keen perception of complex and sensitive military and political relationships, he solidified elements of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea, United States, and representative armed forces of other allied nations into a cohesive and formidable military force.

"In doing so, he conceived and refined new objectives and operational concepts which he persuasively articulated to the highest government officials of both nations. A significant historical milestone was reached during his tenure with the birth of the R.O.K.-U.S. Combined Forces Command.

"With General Vessey as its first Commander this organization of diverse national and military backgrounds has progressed into a most effective command, which has greatly enhanced participation by Republic of Korea armed forces in directing defense operations.

"General Vessey's professionalism and concerned leadership have been important factors in guiding the development of the military forces of both nations. His performance in a position of vital national interest and sensitivity has been clearly in keeping with the highest traditions of the military profession and reflects great credit upon himself, the United States Army, and the Department of Defense."

I would like to ask General Vessey to join us on the platform.

It's with great pleasure and an honor for my country, General Vessey, that I pin this medal on your breast as a token of your superb performance for the United States of America and for the Republic of Korea.

GENERAL VESSEY. [In Korean] Tonight is my wife's birthday. [In English] What I said, Mr. President, was today is my wife's birthday, and thank you very much for the very special party. I don't know what I'll do next year.

I want to say it's been a singular honor for me to serve with the brave, fine Korean and American soldiers that serve to defend this country. It's been a great experience.

See, they don't trust my Korean. [Laughter] I could have said that myself.

Thank you.

NOTE: The exchange began at 9 p.m. in the Dining Hall of the Blue House, the official residence of the Korean President. President Park spoke in Korean, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier in the day, the President was greeted by President Park at the welcoming ceremony at Yoido Plaza. The two Presidents then motorcaded to the Blue House for bilateral discussions with their advisers in the Summit Room.

In the afternoon, President Carter went to the National Cemetery, where he placed wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at the gravesite of Madame Park, the late wife of President Park. He then toured the gardens of the Chang Duk Palace.

Following the dinner, the President went to the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Korea, where he stayed overnight.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a State Dinner in Seoul, Republic of Korea Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249280

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