October 16, 2018 — Seoul, South Korea
An AJC leadership delegation has concluded a two-day visit to the Republic of Korea's capital.
The group met with, among others, Minister of Trade, Energy, and Industry Kim Hyun Chong; Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Hyun; and Professor Moon Chung-in, Special Advisor for Unification, Diplomacy, and National Security Affairs for President Moon Jae-in. The delegation also held private meetings with Israeli Ambassador Chaim Choshen and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Rapson.
“Our annual visits to Seoul demonstrate our continued support for the U.S.-ROK alliance and staunch belief that a U.S. presence in the region is vital to peace and security,” said AJC Asia Pacific Institute (API) Director Shira Loewenberg, who led the 14-member delegation.
Principal topics discussed during the visit were: (i) Korean-U.S. bilateral ties; (ii) Korean-Israeli bilateral relations, including the status of the proposed free-trade agreement between the two countries; (iii) the status of North Korean nuclear negotiations; and (iv) ongoing challenges in the Middle East, among them North Korean proliferation activities in the region.
“Especially in this critical time of negotiations with North Korea, we came to Seoul to better understand the situation on the ground, the thinking of the ROK administration, and to advocate for the issues we care about,” said Loewenberg. “We are committed to encouraging the strengthening relationship between South Korea and Israel. There is tremendous opportunity for Israeli-ROK ties to grow.”
The visit featured a regional overview from scholars at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, one of South Korea's preeminent foreign policy think tanks. The roundtable discussion included Dr. Hahm Chaibong, President of the Asan Institute, and Ambassador Chun Yungwoo, Chairman of the Korean Peninsula Future Forum (KPFF) and former South Korean National Security Advisor. Every semester since 2015, AJC hosts an Asan Institute Fellow in its Washington, D.C. office.
To better understand South Korea's considerable security challenges, the AJC group traveled to the Demilitarized Zone, where they visited the Dora Observatory and Infiltration Tunnel Number 3. The group also hosted a dinner for alumni from the first ever AJC Project Interchange trip to Israel for South Koreans. Joining the delegation at dinner were Ambassador Choi Young-jin, James T. Laney Distinguished Professor at Yonsei University, and Dr. Sung-han Kim, Dean, International Relations, Graduate School of International Studies at Korea University.
AJC has been actively engaged with South Korea since the late 1980s and maintains close ties with Korean officials and other representatives in Seoul, the U.S., Israel, and elsewhere through its pathbreaking Asia Pacific Institute. Since 2014, there have been five visits to Seoul. The Institute is chaired by Jeffrey Stone and directed by Shira Loewenberg.