News / Asia

Nuclear, Trade Issues to Dominate S. Korea's President US Agenda

South Korean President President Lee Myung-bak (File).
South Korean President President Lee Myung-bak (File).

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak travels to Washington this week for talks with top U.S. officials.  The stalled negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program and a pending free-trade agreement between the two countries are expected to be at the top of the agenda.

Restarting North Korean nuclear talks

After visiting Seoul last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said North Korea has tried to create tensions between Washington and Seoul over the stalled nuclear talks. But he says Washington and Seoul are in firm agreement about the path forward.

"We've never been closer. And, we have orchestrated and cooperated in every aspect of our diplomacy with respect to North Korea. And, we share a very clear determination that we are only interested in serious efforts on the part of North Korea. We will not resume a diplomatic path that has failed in the past," he said.

In 2009, North Korea walked away from negotiations with South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. Pyongyang then tested its second nuclear device.  

The U.S. and South Korea want the north to freeze its uranium enrichment activities and allow inspectors at all nuclear sites before the talks can resume.  Pyongyang says it will not return to dialogue unless these requests are dropped.   

Daniel Pinkston, an analyst at the International Crisis Group in Seoul, says Presidents Lee and Obama are unlikely to back off their demands during their talks in Washington.  

"To return to the talks without some guarantees that North Korea is going to take some steps to freeze the program or do something to help the talks move forward, that would be very politically risky.  The leadership in Washington and Seoul would be criticized of going back to the talks without achieving anything," he said.   

Free-trade agreement, a contentious issue

The other major issue during Lee’s visit is the free-trade deal between the two countries that has awaited approval since 2007.

A vote in the United States Congress is expected this week (Wednesday). But KORUS-FTA, as its known, still needs legislative approval from politicians in Seoul.

Seong Young-gwan is a research fellow at the government-funded Korea Development Institute in Seoul. He says even though the ruling party has the votes to force the deal through parliament, it is important to get support from opposition lawmakers.

"Without the consensus from the opposition parties, if the Grand National Party just pushes the ratification it will foster anti-American sentiment and subsequent protests, so politically there is some danger about that," said Seong Young-gwan.

Seong says if ratified, the trade pact may hurt Korea’s agricultural sector, but provide a boost for manufacturers.  

Others are more skeptical. Nam He-Sob is with the Korea Alliance Against the KORUS FTA.  Nam points to the North American Free-Trade Agreement, NAFTA, as an example of how these deals do not help workers. 

"I think this deal may boost some more exports from Korea to the United States but I am not sure if this leads to the extension of employment.  Since the NAFTA went into force in the U.S., the U.S. has experienced massive job loss in the manufacturing sectors. We have seen in this country that the growth of some exporting corporations does not mean more jobs, more wages or a better quality of life for the general public," said Nam.  

Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, says she understands Nam’s protests but thinks that overall, the agreement will be mutually beneficial.

"I think one of the issues that all governments have to address in implementing trade agreements is that while the vast majority of society that is a winner, there are pockets of society that will suffer negative consequences of a free trade agreement.  And I think it’s up to the governments to develop some policies to address the needs of those parts of the population," she said.

Economic and security partnership


Jackson says the KORUS FTA would enhance the two countries’ already strong economic and security partnership.  She adds it also could help the American economy regain some strength after its recent decline.  

But activist Nam Hee-sob says many Koreans see the troubles in the American economy as a warning to stay away. 

"Especially younger generations believe that this outcome is an unacceptable humiliation and an overly high price to pay for America’s role in providing our national defense. In terms of long-term relationship between the two countries, this deal might do more harm than good," said Nam.

Nam says his organization and other anti-free trade activists will hold daily protests and put pressure on lawmakers here not to ratify the trade deal.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid