April 28, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol strongly condemned Russia’s attack against Ukraine and denounced North Korea’s persistent human rights violations and provocations during his address to a joint meeting of the US Congress in Washington.
In a 45-minute address punctuated by frequent standing ovations — the first to the US congress by a Korean president in 10 years — Yoon called for solidarity among democratic nations. He received 56 ovations and 23 standing ovations from the lawmakers during his speech.
“My friends, freedom and democracy are once again under threat,” Yoon said in a speech delivered in English on Thursday morning.
“The war against Ukraine is a violation of international law. It is an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo with force,” Yoon said. “Korea strongly condemns the unprovoked armed attack against Ukraine.”
He said that when North Korea invaded the South in 1950, democracies came running to help his country. “We fought together and kept our freedom. The rest is history. Korea’s experience shows us just how important it is for democracies to uphold solidarity,” he said. “Korea will stand in solidarity with the free world.”
“We will actively work to safeguard the freedom of the people of Ukraine and support their efforts in reconstruction,” he said.
In his speech, Yoon used the word “freedom” a total of 36 times and the word “democracy” 18 times.
Yoon also vehemently denounced the persistent provocations by North Korea and called upon the US Congress to put their efforts in improving the abysmal state of human rights within the regime.
“Even as we walked in unison for freedom for 70 years, there is one regime determined to pursue a wrong path,” he said. “That is North Korea.”
North Korea’s nuclear program and missile provocations pose a serious threat to the peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond, he said.
“To deter its reckless behavior, the alliance must stand united with determination,” Yoon added.
Noting that he agreed to strengthen the US extended deterrence together with Joe Biden a day earlier at the summit, he said, “We need to speed up Korea-US-Japan trilateral security cooperation to counter increasing North Korean nuclear threats,” along with close Korea-US coordination.
He said his government would “respond firmly” to provocations, but at the same time, would “keep the door open” for dialogue on North Korea’s denuclearization.
Yoon said North Korea’s obsession with nuclear weapons and missiles was throwing its population into a severe economic crisis.
“We must raise global awareness of the dire human rights situation in North Korea. We must not shy away from our duty to promote freedom for North Koreans.”
Yoon said “unspeakable and horrendous” incidents took place in the North. He cited examples such as men and women being shot and killed for violating COVID-19 prevention measures, public executions carried out for watching and sharing South Korean shows, and people being shot in public for possessing the Bible and having faith.
“We need to raise awareness,” he said. “We must inform the world of the gravity of North Korea’s human rights violations. I ask for your help in improving North Korea’s grim conditions.”