Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 9, 1998


The South Grounds

10:50 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I am proud to welcome President Kim Dae-jung, and the entire Korean delegation to the United States and to the White House.

We live in remarkable times. In the 1980s, some of the greatest heroes of freedom were the political prisoners of repressive regimes -- Lech Walesa in Poland, Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Kim Dae-jung, who faced a death sentence in South Korea after years of unjust and brutal treatment by the government.

How very different things are now. Lech Walesa was elected Poland's President; Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela are the Presidents of their countries; and Kim Dae-jung is here today as President, after the first ever democratic change of power from the governing party to the opposition in the 50-year history of the Republic of Korea. (Applause.)

The irresistible longing for freedom, human rights, and democracy has carried Kim Dae-jung to the presidency of his country and now back to America, where he once lived in exile and where there has long been strong bipartisan support for Korean democracy. (Applause.)

Mr. President, you have the admiration of the American people. We will work together to deepen democracy and economic opportunity.

President Kim has spoken of the powerful link between democratic governments and market economies. In the 21st century, nations will not be able to sustain great economic power unless their people are empowered, free to speak their minds and create their own futures; unless there is equal opportunity and the rule of law.

America strongly supports the economic reforms President Kim is pursuing -- opening markets, making financial institutions, businesses, and government more accountable. We will work with South Korea as it moves toward a full recovery and broader prosperity, with increased trade and investment that will benefit both our nations.

Mr. President, your leadership will guide Korea's economic recovery, but so will your example. If one man can triumph over such great adversity, then surely the Korean people can surmount their current challenges. The American people, including more than one million Korean Americans who contribute so very much to our country, stand with you.

Let me also reaffirm America's steadfast commitment to our security alliance. We will continue working together for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and across Asia.

As President, I stood on the Bridge of No Return, where I saw the sacrifices made by American and South Korean troops to protect freedom. I also saw the young North Korean soldiers on the other side and imagined a future where people from North and South could walk freely across that bridge.

We strongly support South Korea's efforts to find common ground with North Korea. The United States also will continue to participate with China in the four-party efforts to build a permanent peace. (Applause.)

Let me conclude by saying something to men and women all around the world who work to protect human rights: Your work matters. You help transform nations and end tyranny. You save lives. Standing with me today is living proof -- Kim Dae-jung, a human rights pioneer, a courageous survivor, and America's partner in building a better future for the world.

Today let us celebrate the freedom that has brought so much hope to the end of the 20th century. But let us also strengthen our efforts to build even greater democracy and peace and prosperity for all our children in the 21st century.

Mr. President, again, welcome to the White House and welcome back to America. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT KIM: Mr. President and Mrs. Clinton, and distinguished guests, thank you for inviting my wife and me, and for your warm welcome. I would also like to express the gratitude of Koreans to the American people for your unswerving friendship.

After 50 years of consistent struggle for democracy, the Korean people won an historic victory by achieving the first peaceful transition of power from the ruling to an opposition party. I'm aware that behind this victory was the message of hope for freedom and democracy sent by the American people.

As I faced 40 years of persecution from dictators and authoritarian regimes, including death threats, imprisonment, house arrest, exile, and surveillance, the unwavering support from America was a source of encouragement and deliverance. Today the triumph of democracy in Korea is also a victory for the democracy-loving people of America.

Korea has begun a new struggle. It is a struggle to wipe out the legacy of dictatorship that suppressed democracy and a free market economy, and to promote the simultaneous development of these two, so that we can overcome the current national crisis and join the ranks of advanced nations in the 21st century. (Applause.) With the support of the Korean people, I will surely succeed in this struggle. And that victory will be a role model for many of our Asian neighbors.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I will never forget the support and encouragement you gave me last year when the foreign exchange crisis hit Korea. The day after I was elected President, you personally called me and extended your strong support. It was a deeply moving experience. It reminded me once again, a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Throughout history and throughout difficult times, the United States has been an unwavering friend. You liberated us from Japanese colonial rule. You helped us guard our nation against the communist aggression. You have given us on numerous occasions support and assistance.

For its part, Korea has been a faithful partner to the United States. We also did not spare our cooperation with the United States whenever it was necessary. Together we must protect the values of liberty, democracy, and peace, which our two nations have jointly nurtured. (Applause.)

I intend to raise a spirit of peace on the Korean Peninsula by engaging North Korea in activities to promote reconciliation and cooperation, while maintaining a strong security posture and coordinating our North Korean policy with the United States. I believe U.S. cooperation is crucial for the success of this policy.

Mr. President, under your fine leadership the United States is enjoying a stability and prosperity unprecedented in history, and a decisive influence on world affairs. (Applause.) At the same time, nations in Asia are experiencing uncertainty and pain amid economic crisis. Never before has so much been expected of your leadership. Korea, for its part, faces its worst economic crisis since the Korean War. And so eyes and ears of the Korean people are focused on our meeting today.

I look forward to seeing great riches come from our meeting. It will give our people renewed hope. Our two nations must develop a higher level of partnership, a higher friendship, sharing the ideals of democracy and free market economy.

For the success of our meeting, I ask you and other American leaders for cooperation and support. Thank you. (Applause.)

[Footer icon]

[White House icon] [Help Desk icon]

To comment on this service,
send feedback to the Web Development Team.