Biden Seeks to Strengthen Security, Economic and Humanitarian Relationship

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While there were no big surprises, Friday’s speech was and exciting moment, in which the Vice President was able to explain the benefits of a strong United States and Korean relationship although a few moments could been seen as cultural awkward.

The speech began with a began with Biden reflecting on his experience meeting Nelson Mandela, who’s death was announced hours before the speech began, telling the audience how Mandela became friends with his jailers instead of resenting them. He then transitioned to discussing the need for new leadership as the Asia region grows in influence. Examining the sixty years since the end of the Korean war, “the miracle on the Han River,” the period of rapid growth and success for South Korea, he compared to America’s growth, saying that it happened because of the audiences parents and grandparents “betting on ordinary Koreans” Having been in Korea long enough to understand that Yonsei is considered to be the number 2 school in the nation to me such a statement would be comparable to somebody going to Yale and praising the student body for having overcome a lower middle class lifestyle especially as he added “not the elite, not a special class, but ordinary Koreans.  Because they know what we know in America:  Ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things if you give them an opportunity.” In South Korea the elite cheabol companies such as Samsung and Hyundai control wide sectors of the economy making independent opportunity hard to accomplish.   One could compare this cultural moment to one in America where elite politicians attempt to appeal to the everyday public or contrast it assuming that the White House does not understand these dynamics of Korea fully.

But the main motivation of this was probably in the purpose of the speech to bring the United States and Korea closer together. On North Korea and the China air defense zone  Biden reaffirmed America’s stance to be similar with South Korea saying that negotiations with the North required disarming of nuclear weapons. He also spoke of the need to renew trade agreements and improve economic ties. Environmental cleanup and joint humanitarian missions such as typhoon  Haiyan relief were also discussed as important relation builders.

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Biden speaking of the need for nations to take action to decrease tensions in the region following the new air defense zone declaration by China.

Text of the full speech can be found on the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/06/remarks-vice-president-joe-biden-us-korea-relations-and-asia-pacific

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Proof that I sat in the front row, and thus took these pictures myself.

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The Vice President Departs Yonsei University after his speech

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The U.S. ambassador to Korea seen after the speech.

Vice President Joe Biden’s Korea Speech, Preparing the Campus Gym

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Yonsei University is getting ready to play host for the U.S. Vice President as he will be delivering a speech on campus Friday. After being pushed aside from importance this Fall thus far, the Obama administration is trying to refocus its efforts in terms of solidifying influence in the region. It is attempting to both contain and benefit from China’s growth and perhaps an effort will be made to increase cooperation between Korea and Japan. According to Image his speech at Yonsei will be a major one with the focus on the U.S. Korea relationship. Details are harder to come by because the media is fixated on China’s Air Defense Zone. I am not expecting anything critical and new to be said, so I think the best odds of this speech being heavily noted in the media is if Joe Biden does something silly, as he sometimes does. However anytime somebody at his level visits campus it is great opportunity, fun afternoon, and feels historic.

Besides an e-mail and word of mouth, I only saw one poster about the event. Registration closed today so that there will be time to security screen those attending. While I have only talked to a handful of people who plan to go, I imagine an event like this will be well attended.
Update (December 6): The event had more requests than tickets as some people I spoke to were rejected.

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