Obama to welcome South Korea president to DC


Lamp posts near the White House are adorned with South Korean and U.S. national flags on Oct. 11, 2011, ahead of the state visit by South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak.


Jewel Samad

President Obama is rolling out the red carpet for his South Korean counterpart this week when President Lee Myung-bak arrives in Washington for his official state visit.

According to The New York Times, Lee will be entertained at a White House state dinner, address a joint session of Congress Thursday, and travel with Obama to tour a General Motors factory in Detroit on Friday.

The schedule is a sign of the personal relationship and mutual respect that has been growing between the two world leaders, the Financial Times reported.

“This relationship today is extremely close,” said Georgetown University Professor Victor Cha, according to the Financial Times. Cha was a former advisor on Korea to President George W. Bush.

He continued, “it’s probably at one of its highest points, if not the highest point in the history of U.S.-Korea relations.”

According to The New York Times, Obama has made no secret of his respect for the South Korean leader.

South Korea, as Mr. Obama likes to point out, has a high-speed broadband network that reaches more than 90 percent of its people, compared with only 65 percent of Americans. A larger percentage of South Koreans than Americans graduate from college. At a time when financially struggling school districts here are laying off teachers, South Korea is hiring them to satisfy demanding parents.

The trip is also a celebration and publicity tour for the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, which both leaders have planned to talk about during their visit to General Motors Co.’s Orion Assembly Plant, according to The Detroit News.  CNN reported the free trade agreement was sent to Congress last week for final approval.

The trade pact is expected to increase the export of American goods to South Korea by at least $10 billion and the Obama administration said it will support at least 70,000 American jobs. 

Though the venue for the speech is in the U.S.’s car-making capital, The Detroit News reported the agreement most likely will not significantly increase the number U.S.-made cars in South Korea because of Koreans’ preference for locally made cars.