SEOUL — South Korea's president, who took office in late February, begins her first official visit to Washington on Sunday. The trip is intended to enhance the economic and security relationship between the two allies.
On her six-day visit, President Park Geun-hye will be accompanied by what is billed as the largest-ever South Korean economic delegation to the United States.
Among the 51 business leaders: the chairman of the Samsung Electronics conglomerate and the chiefs of the country's five largest business organizations.
The economic focus of the trip, however, is likely to be overshadowed by security concerns, stemming from recent North Korean threats to attack both South Korea and the United States.
Hwang Tae-soon, senior researcher at the privately-funded Wisdom Center, said Presidents Park and Obama, marking the 60-year alliance between their countries, will affirm that North Korea cannot achieve its goals if its maintains its nuclear programs.
“There is an English proverb: ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child,’" he said. Hwang predicted the two leaders will send the message that “they will be tough on North Korea unless it opens the door itself towards reform.”
Pyongyang has shown a preference to talk with Washington rather than deal directly with Seoul. But U.S. policy makers are clearly indicating that North Korea first must improve ties with the rival South.
Park's visit will allow President Obama to hear directly from his South Korean counterpart, at the start of her five-year term, on her intended approach towards the North.