Submitted Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 6, 2008
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs

SUBMITTED RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - February 06, 2008)


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today I introduce a resolution expressing the sense of the U.S. Senate regarding the strong alliance that has been forged between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, ROK, and congratulating Myung-Bak Lee on his election to the presidency of the ROK.

The U.S.-ROK Alliance is no ordinary alliance. It was forged in desperate struggle against North Korean aggressors, and it has been honed by more than 50 years of joint military operations on and off the Korean Peninsula. On the peninsula, ROK and U.S. forces stand shoulder-to-shoulder, keeping the peace as they have done for 55 years. Off the peninsula, South Korean troops have fought alongside U.S. forces in Vietnam, Iraq twice, and Afghanistan. Even today, South Korea has more than 1,000 troops in Iraq. And Seoul voted last December to keep at least 600 troops in Iraq through the end of this year.

The willingness of South Korea to devote blood and treasure to struggles far from its shores is not only a testimony to the loyalty of the Korean people to the American people, who came to their aid in a time of need, but also proof of the convergent national interests of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea.

The U.S.-ROK Alliance is rooted in common strategic interests, but it is also fortified by common democratic values. South Korea has developed a vibrant democratic system, with strong protections for civil liberties and human rights. It was not always thus.

South Korea's journey from authoritarianism and poverty to democracy and prosperity has been a long one--four decades of hard work by the Korean people. Democracy did not come without sacrifices. The South Korean government's bloody suppression of the Kwangju democracy uprising of May 1980, left thousands of unarmed civilian protestors dead or injured. Although the dictatorship persisted for another 7 years, the democratic aspirations of the Korean people could not be denied.

In the end, the Korean people accomplished a remarkably peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. By also building a robust economy that has lifted millions out of poverty, the Republic of Korea has provided a model for other developing nations in East Asia and beyond. South Korea is a world in information technology, with a much higher rate of broadband internet access, 30 percent, and more broadband total users, 15 million, than the United Kingdom, 24 percent, 14 million, or France, 22 percent, 14 million.

Just as Korea is no ordinary ally, President-elect Lee is no ordinary South Korean politician. The son of a farm worker, Lee was born in Osaka, Japan, on December 19, 1941, returning to Korea with his parents only after the end of World War II. As a boy, Lee worked with his mother, who sold ice cream, cakes, and other sundries to supplement the family's income. He worked as a garbage collector to help pay for school expenses, eventually earning admission to the prestigious Korea University to study business administration.

In 1965, Lee joined Hyundai Engineering and Construction company, which had only 90 employees at the time. Over the course of 30 years at Hyundai, he advanced from junior executive to chairman, and helped build Hyundai into a global force in automotive manufacturing, construction, and real estate, with 160,000 employees.

Lee's entry into politics came only after he had retired from his Hyundai career. He was elected Mayor of Seoul, Korea's capital and largest city, on a platform stressing a balance between economic development and environmental protection. He told the city's people that he would remove the elevated highway that ran through the heart of Seoul and restore the buried Cheonggyecheon stream--an urban waterway that Lee himself had helped pave over in the 1960s. His opponents insisted that the plan would cause traffic chaos and cost billions. Three years later, Cheonggyecheon was reborn, changing the face of Seoul. Lee also revamped the city's transportation system, adding clean rapid-transit buses.

President-elect Lee stressed during his campaign that the U.S.-ROK alliance would be the cornerstone of Korea's security policy, and that strengthening and deepening the alliance would be a top priority for his administration. On North-South relations, he has pledged to sustain South Korea's engagement and investment in the North. But he has also articulated a policy of ``tough love,'' saying that he will consider progress on denuclearization as his government ponders major new investments designed to help modernize North Korea's economy.

Today, as the people of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea look to the future, we can take comfort from the fact that we need not confront the challenges of North Korea's nuclear ambitions, terrorism, energy security, and global climate change alone.

Working together, we will convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Working together, we can help inspire good governance and promote economic growth in Asia and beyond. We can lead by example and demonstrate that nations that respect the human rights of their citizens are nations that are innovative, prosperous, and peaceful.

It is in celebration of the promise of this important partnership that I rise today, in concert with the Senator from Alaska, Senator Murkowski, to offer a resolution marking another milestone in South Korea's democracy--the election of Myung-Bak Lee as President--and wishing him and the Korean people well as they embark on the next stage of South Korea's remarkable journey from the horrors of the Korean War to the bright future that is today arriving at light speed in the Republic of Korea.