Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by the South Korean Newspaper Dong-A Ilbo
February 24, 1988
in South Korea
With the inauguration of Mr. Roh Tae Woo, Korea will celebrate its
first peaceful transfer of power. Since Korea has only experienced
authoritarian rule, and not true democracy under a good or enlightened
President, could you tell us the secret of being such a leader, and what can be
done in Korea to bring expanded democracy?
The President. Over the past few
decades, Korea has impressed the world
with its economic miracle of rapid growth. In the past year, Korea has matched that
economic progress with a kind of political miracle, setting a new course toward
an open and democratic political system. The 1987 Presidential election marked
an important milestone in that process. It is, however, important to remember
that democracy is a process, not an end point. Americans value democracy, because
it is a dynamic system that changes as a nation changes.
you know, I met President-elect Roh in Washington last year. He impressed
me as a man committed to the democratization of your country, because he knew
that was what Koreans, including himself, wanted. I understand that
President-elect Roh likes to refer to his having big
ears. That is really the key to leadership in a democratic society. You have to
listen carefully before you make decisions. Sometimes -- especially when you
have a wide-open election year as we have now -- some may not like the results,
but accept them and understand the different ways in which others see problems.
In a political sense we expect closer cooperation between the United States and the new Korean
government, but economically (trade) we expect increased tensions in the short
term. What can be done to keep these tensions under control so that this area
tracks the political area?
The President. Korea and the United States are longtime allies and
friends. The relationship has become closer, stronger, and more complex over
the years. You are now our seventh-largest trading partner. Korean and American
businessmen routinely visit one [an]other. We have a
growing Korean-American community living in our country. All of these trends
are very positive, yet sometimes overlooked.
has also brought some new stresses -- notably in the trade and exchange rate
areas. There are real problems. Working together, as we have done for so many
years in other areas, I am sure that we can solve these issues. The key is
remembering that it is in our mutual interest to find good solutions.
Participation in the international open-market system that has enabled Koreans
to prosper has both benefits and responsibilities. Korea must be willing to
accept responsibilities commensurate with its new, increased role in the
international economic system.
on the Korean Peninsula
Could you characterize how the recent improvement in U.S. relations with the
Soviets can contribute to reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula? In the coming
U.S.-Soviet summit would you encourage the Soviet leader to play a more active
role in restraining or completely stopping North Korea's terrorist actions, including
jeopardizing the 1988 Seoul Olympics?
The President. The United States and Soviet Union and everyone else in
the region should be cooperating to reduce tensions on the Peninsula, as well as in the
world as a whole. We hope that improved U.S.-Soviet relations will help move
things in that direction and, of course, improve the situation in other areas
of the world, too.
key problem in Korea is North Korea's proclivity to use
violence. The world was shocked again by the recent murder of 115 innocent
people aboard KAL 858 by North Korea. A successful
incident-free Olympics in Seoul this September is in
everyone's interest. The prospect of North Korean -- or anyone else's --
attempts to disrupt the games through violence is a danger that we and the
Soviets can agree to work against.
hope that Moscow will use its close
relations with Pyongyang to urge moderation and
to encourage the resumption of direct North-South contacts on practical ways to
reduce tension. It is time for the North to eschew violence and get down to the
serious business of resuming dialog with Seoul. If it does, it may be
able to join in the peace, progress, and prosperity other nations in the region
have begun to share.
Korea-Eastern Bloc Relations
How do you assess possible diplomatic initiatives of the new Korean Government
toward the East bloc, including the Soviet Union? Is there a role for
the United States to play in helping
improve Korean-East bloc relations?
The President. In recent years the Republic of Korea has made some progress
in expanding contacts with the Eastern bloc. The Olympics will emphasize how
this has happened. Continued progress in this direction is inevitable since Korea has so much to offer --
products and expertise in the economics of free-enterprise industrialization.
We support further movement and further opening in whatever appropriate ways
that Korea may ask.
What are the chances for a U.S.-Korean summit with Mr. Roh
Tae Woo, either in Washington or Seoul, and when could that
The President. We have a close
alliance with Korea and always welcome the
opportunity for such discussions. Our people meet and share views all the time.
Talk now of the details of summits and such seems a bit premature, since
President-elect Roh is only now being sworn in and is
busy setting up his new administration.
Note: The questions and
answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 29.