Remarks by Vice President Harris at a State Department Luncheon for President Yoon Suk Yeol and Mrs. Kim Keon Hee of the Republic of Korea
U.S. State Department, Washington D.C.
By: White House: Office of the Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Good afternoon.
Thank you, Secretary Blinken, Ms. Evan Ryan, for hosting us here at the State Department. And to the members of Congress who are here including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Menendez — (applause) — and Chairman McCaul, thank you each. (Applause.)
And there are many members of the President’s Cabinet who are here, and I thank you as well, including all of the leaders from the Korean American community and all of those who believe in the importance of strengthening the ties between the United States and South Korea.
So, Mr. President, it has been a pleasure to be with you these last couple of days. Mrs. Kim, it has been a great pleasure for my husband, the Second Gentleman of the United States, to also spend time with you and to co-host the luncheon this year.
I thank you, Mr. President, for the warm welcome you offered me when I visited Seoul last September and when the Second Gentleman was there to attend your inauguration in May of last year.
President Yoon, you campaigned for office on a promise to strengthen the alliance between our nations. And you have delivered.
My visit to Seoul, as well as this state visit, are a demonstration of the expansive agenda between our two nations and that our alliance is truly a global one — an alliance that is leading on the most pressing issues of our time.
In Seoul, you and I outlined steps to strengthen our collective defense in the face of aggression and provocations in the region. We renewed our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.
I thanked you then, as I do now, for standing strong in the face of Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine and for standing up for international rules-based order.
We have strategized together on a clean energy future, on resilient supply chains, and advanced technologies.
We have consulted on democracy, and I thank you for your speech today.
We have discussed gender equality.
And, of course, we have talked about our mutual excitement about space exploration. In fact, earlier this week, you and I advanced our space cooperation during a visit to Goddard.
And on a personal note, we share a background as prosecutors and a mutual commitment —
PRESIDENT YOON: (Laughs.)
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: (Laughs.) (Applause.) Yes.
And our mutual commitment, therefore, to the rule of law, to justice, and to accountability.
President Yoon, you have set South Korea on a path to economic and global success. And together, the Biden-Harris administration, with your administration, has set our alliance on a path forward to continue to deliver security and prosperity for our people.
On the issue of security, the alliance between the United States and South Korea was forged in shared sacrifice, as you so eloquently described earlier today.
During the Korean War, Americans and Koreans fought and died together to defend against aggression. We fought together for peace and security and for freedom. More than 36,000 American servicemembers paid the ultimate sacrifice for this noble cause, as did 137,000 soldiers from your country.
During this state visin [sic] — visit, we once again solemnly honor that shared sacrifice. And in a demonstration of our enduring commitment to our collective security, today, more than 28,000 American servicemembers stand guard in your country to continue to deter and defend against shared threats.
It was my great honor and privilege to meet with some of them when I visited the DMZ last year. They have demonstrated extraordinary dedication, skill, and discipline. And they proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their South Korean counterparts, representing the best of America’s commitment to our alliance.
We also share a mutual commitment to prosperity. Over the course of the last three decades, South Korea has become an economic powerhouse, as demonstrated by the fact that your country, as you mentioned earlier, represents the 10th largest economy in the world.
And there are now 16 South Korean Fortune 500 companies, some of the most influential in the world. And South Korea is a global leader on advanced technology, semiconductors, and the clean energy economy.
Together, our alliance is driving economic growth around the globe.
And to that end, under President Biden and our administration, we have made historic investments, from the Inflation Reduction Act to the CHIPS and Science Act. We are investing billions of dollars to revitalize American manufacturing, which means companies, including South Korean companies, will create good-paying jobs here in the United States.
President Biden and I are particularly proud that, since we have taken office, Korean firms have invested more than $100 billion in the United States, much of which will accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy.
For example, SK and LG are investing billions in electric car battery plants in Georgia — I see the senator from Georgia is here — Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.
Hyundai will manufacture electric cars in America.
Samsung is constructing a $17 billion chip factory in Texas. (Applause.) Chairman McCaul.
And earlier this month, I visited a Qcells plant in Dalton, Georgia, which manufactures solar panels. And thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, that plant will triple its solar panel production.
Altogether, these investments will create tens of thousands of American jobs, address the climate crisis, and build prosperity for the people of both our nations.
South Korea and the United States, as the Secretary has mentioned, also share strong cultural and people-to-people ties. K-pop bands — they top the billboards in the United States, including BTS, who I had the great pleasure of meeting and inviting to my office in the West Wing. And to the great pleasure of my niece, I must tell you. (Laughter.)
I also think of the Emmy award-winning TV shows like “Squid Games,” which I will confess Doug and I binge-watched at home over a series of weeks.
And I think of the actress Youn Yuh-jung, who I met in Seoul last year when I convened groundbreaking South Korean women. She is the first Korean to win an Academy Award for acting.
These are examples of the cultural ties and the intertwined history between our nations. And we take pride that the United States is home to the largest Korean population in the world outside of the Korean Peninsula. (Applause.)
And we recall history. There are those who came to Hawaii — the senator from Hawaii is here — to work in agriculture in the early 20th century; those who came after the Korean War; and those who arrived in recent decades to study in American universities and to build businesses here.
There are now nearly 2 million Americans of Korean descent, including luminaries like Jonny Kim, the astronaut, who we visited with at Goddard earlier this week; including members of Congress, who are here, including Representatives Andy Kim, Young Kim, and Marilyn Strickland, and Michelle Steel. (Applause.) There they are. Who are with us today.
And this list also includes a member of my family, my sister-in-law, Dr. Judy Lee, who is also with us today. (Applause.)
So I will conclude by saying to you, President Yoon: Across all of the areas I have just mentioned, your leadership has enabled further progress for our two nations. And our administration is grateful to you for strengthening our ties and serving as a steadfast ally and partner and friend.
This is a decisive moment in our world’s history, a critical moment, an inflection point, in many ways. And at a time when autocracy and aggression are all too prevalent, your leadership is critical.
I know that we share a vision of the world — a secure, prosperous world with strong alliances and strong rules and norms. And I know that all of this will benefit from the relationship that we have with the Korean people, between the American people and the Korean people. And people around the world indeed will benefit.
In 1953, as the Korean Armistice approached, President Eid- — Eisenhower wrote to President Rhee in Seoul. He wrote, and I quote, “There cannot be independence without interdependence.” So true. He went on to say, “And there cannot be human liberty, except as men recognize” — and, I will add, “women” — “that they are bound together by ties of common destiny.”
President Yoon, this remains true today. I believe our nations and our people are increasingly bound together in a shared future and a common destiny.
We are more interconnected and interdependent than we have ever been. And that, I believe, is to the benefit of all of humanity.
So I raise a glass to the enduring friendship between our nations and the friendship between us as leaders. Cheers.
(The Vice President offers a toast.) Thank you.
Please. Thank you. (Applause.)
And I will now introduce President Yoon. Thank you. (Applause.)