June 23, 2023
SEOUL – Leaders of South Korea’s ruling party are set to visit the US next month to follow up on President Yoon Suk Yeol’s April summit with US President Joe Biden.
The People Power Party said Thursday that its chairperson Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon and the rest of the leadership will be heading to Washington on July 10 to meet with US Congress members and “reinvigorate” bilateral parliamentary dialogue as the two countries mark the 70th anniversary of their alliance.
Rep. Kang Min-kuk, who will be joining the delegation as the party’s chief spokesperson, told The Korea Herald that the trip is intended to support Yoon’s efforts to deepen the alliance with the US and to follow up on the commitments outlined in the Washington Declaration on a parliamentary level.
The ruling party’s Kim will be accompanied by police officer-turned-lawmaker Rep. Lee Chul-gyu, who is serving as the party’s secretary general, and Rep. Yoo Sang-bum on the National Assembly’s intelligence and judiciary committees, among others.
Before returning to Seoul on July 15, the ruling party leaders will be making stops at New York and Los Angeles.
In a previous interview with The Korea Herald, the speaker of the South Korean National Assembly, Rep. Kim Jin-pyo, said he would be making a trip to the US later this year in a bid to broaden parliamentary cooperation.
The announcement of the US visit by the ruling party leadership follows the Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers’ recent controversy-ridden trip to China. The trip came amid Seoul’s ongoing spat over Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming’s remarks during a dinner meeting with Rep. Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the opposition and Yoon’s onetime presidential rival.
At the meeting, Xing said one would be “completely mistaken to bet against China” in Beijing’s rivalry with Washington, asking Seoul not to be influenced by “external factors” affecting international affairs. He also said that the “recent challenges” in Seoul’s ties with Beijing were “to be frank, not China’s fault” in an apparent slight at the South Korean administration in power.
Lee reciprocated Xing’s concerns for Seoul aligning away from Beijing. In a rare move as an opposition leader, he also voiced support for Beijing’s “One China” policy, diverging from Yoon’s stance that Taiwan is not Bejing’s domestic issue alone but an international one.
Lee’s Democratic Party is dialing up attacks on Yoon’s foreign policy, especially his closer alignment with Japan.
The party said it would be staging rallies across the country protesting Japan’s plan to release water stored at the now-defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant and Yoon administration’s lack of response to stop it. The water will be treated and diluted, the Japanese government has said, and the plan’s safety evaluated by the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as South Korea’s team of experts.
Lee, calling the Fukushima water “nuclear waste,” said Yoon’s inaction risked South Korea becoming “complicit” in the “act of terrorism” by Japan.