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Vice Ministers

Keynote Speech by H.E. CHOI Jongmoon Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs On the Occasion of the Korea-US Joint Public-Private Economic Forum, Washington D.C., July 21, 2021

2021-07-26 09:46:01

Keynote Speech by H.E. Choi Jong-moon
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea
Atlantic Council, Washington D.C., July 21, 2021

Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Senior Vice President Barry Pavel of the Atlantic Council, Moderators, Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen – good morning and good evening.

I am pleased to deliver my remarks for the 2021 Korea-U.S. Public-Private Joint Economic Forum today. And I feel at home here at the Atlantic Council, as I often attended events of the Council when I was with the Embassy 20 years ago.

My presence here suggests that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but our battle against the pandemic is still far from over. New variants are straining our everyday lives, but I am certain that science and technology will eventually prevail and the world will return to normalcy sooner than later.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our two Presidents met for the first time two months ago at the White House, and delivered by far one of the most historic and comprehensive agreements. Since I joined the foreign service in the early 1980s, I have seen quite a number of summits between our two countries. But, the meeting this time definitely stands out in two particular aspects.

First of all, the Moon-Biden Summit highlighted that our alliance is evolving in line with the dynamic nature of the global environment. Seventy years ago, the ROK-U.S. alliance started with a political and military vision, built on the shared sacrifice from the calamity of war. Since the ‘90s, our alliance began to shift its focus to a set of values that we share today – such as market economy and human rights, as Korea rose to a formidable economic power, while embracing the principle of democracy.

Our Summit in May once again witnessed the birth of new alliance – an alliance of science and technology. A wide range of such agenda captured in the Joint Statement and the Fact Sheet will be the North Star for the first time in our alliance history.

The other salient point is that the private sector came to prominence as one of the major players in the discussion. Many of the Korean household names, Samsung, LG, Hyundai, SK, were brought to the center stage during the Summit. To me, one of the most memorable scenes was President Biden personally thanking these companies at the White House. This reflects the reality that the investments in the critical products have become essential in reshaping the post-pandemic world.

It makes a more convincing case that we take an integrated action with corporations, researchers and academia. This is especially true, as the post-COVID era will be dominated by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digitalization and sustainable development.

Against this backdrop, I would like to touch upon the three key areas that best capture the outcome of our Summit, which are “Global Health”, “Technology and Supply Chain”, and “Climate Change”.

First let me start with global health. As we look back, COVID-19 was a surprise attack, claiming millions of lives, disrupting the global mobility of people as well as goods and services. At the early stage of the outbreak, nearly every country was in desperate need for medical supplies. In the spirit of alliance, Korea managed to provide diagnostic kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the United States. A year later, at our Summit, the U.S. offered over one million doses of COVID vaccine for the Korean military servicemen. This was along the spirits of “We Go Together” and “Fight Tonight”, further bolstering our ironclad joint defense posture. The Korean public sincerely appreciated the symbolic extension of our alliance.

Based on such a remarkable story of friendship, our two Leaders agreed to launch a policy framework, the “Korea-U.S. Global Vaccine Partnership”. On the occasion of the Summit, leading pharma companies from both sides, namely Samsung Biologics, SK Bioscience, Moderna and Novavax, agreed to pursue stable supply of COVID vaccines. Furthermore, they are set to strengthen research and investment in the advanced vaccine production, such as mRNA. In this respect, I believe that the “Korea-U.S. Global Vaccine Partnership” can play a critical role. The Partnership allows us to combine America’s advanced technologies and raw material supply capacities with Korea’s stable and large-scale vaccine manufacturing ability. Last month, under the Partnership, the first senior-level bilateral Experts Group kicked off. I look forward to seeing concrete results in the near future.

By the way, for your reference, it was as early as 1994 that we decided to host the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) with its headquarters based in Korea. Since then, our vaccine development has grown continuously. Now, Korea has the second-largest manufacturing capacity of biopharmaceuticals in the world.

At the same time, Korea and the U.S. both recognize the urgent call to pursue equitable access to vaccines. For this objective, our two countries agreed to make substantial commitments to COVAX AMC in order to supply vaccines to the developing countries.

In particular, a good place for mutual cooperation to both countries is Southeast Asia, the strategic nexus connecting Korea’s New Southern Policy and the United States’ vision for the Indo-Pacific. The scope of our cooperation extended to Korea committing 200 million dollars to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), to support international efforts towards infection prevention and control.

The second element is about technology and supply chains. This is one of the most crucial areas of bilateral cooperation where Korea can be of assistance to the U.S. Our two countries can bolster resilient value chains for each other, and we could reap the benefits of such synergy together.

As I mentioned earlier, it was a symbolic move to invite our leading companies to announce their investment plans at the Summit. The announcement featured 39 billion dollars, including investments in a state-of-the-art foundry and high-capacity battery plants. These production facilities are designed to integrate our manufacturing bases across the Pacific. However, these investments can materialize only when our governments are prepared to help with proper policy tools. In this regard, it is welcoming that we both have introduced strategies to encourage production and innovation, and to attract best talents to our countries.

I am pleased to bring to your attention that our U.S. counterpart released the “100-Day Supply Chain Reviews” in this regard. The lawmakers on the Hill have also been active, pushing for the most comprehensive omnibus bill with programs of 52 billion dollars to spur chip production in the United States. It is my belief that the Korean manufacturers well qualify for such benefits, as they made hard choices even under uncertain prospects for the future.

On electric vehicle batteries, it is still unclear whether our manufacturers will be eligible for any financial incentives. As LG and SK joined hands with GM and Ford respectively, it becomes increasingly convincing that what is good for the Korean battery makers will also be good for the U.S.
We hope to see these companies secure enough support as well. After all, they will contribute to the resilient and diverse supply chains of the United States in critical and strategic areas.

Moving forward, our two nations continue to push the envelope towards new frontiers. We recognize the significant role that critical and emerging technologies play, in areas such as space, artificial intelligence, next generation network, Open-RAN, quantum and bio-technologies. Particularly in space exploration, I believe that the termination of the Revised Missile Guidelines (RMG) removed the final barrier against Korea's launching and development of rocket and spacecraft technologies for civil purposes. ROK’s entry into the Artemis Accords was another achievement, strengthening our bilateral partnership in space science and aeronautics research.

The ROK-U.S. Summit guides us to further deepen our cooperation on the quantum technologies that will revolutionize our future in every way. It requires careful attention, given the enormous potential and implication that quantum technologies may bring across the board. Considering the sensitivity of these technologies, it would be a win-win approach for the United States to collaborate with its longtime ally and a supporter of democracy, to preserve our leadership in such foundational and strategic assets.

In 6G and Open-RAN technologies, Korea maintains its competitive edge, and therefore remains open and most capable for cooperation with the U.S., through a variety of channels, including the Next G Alliance and the O-RAN Alliance. Our close cooperation will help develop and standardize these innovative forms of network architecture. These technologies will be the cornerstone for other promising areas, including AI and autonomous driving.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This leaves me with the final topic, climate change – the global emergency that knows no borders.
According to the scientists, the destruction of wildlife habitat was one of the major culprits that led to the outbreak of the current pandemic. Such an alarming news came as another wake-up call on how critical climate change may impact our lives.

At the Summit, our two Presidents shared the need to take an immediate action and agreed to work together in line with their shared target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Last year, Korea had replaced our previous reduction target on BAU with an absolute target of 24.4% from the 2017 emissions level. This May, Korea unveiled a more ambitious plan to enhance 2030 NDC target as early as in October, before the final announcement at COP26 in Glasgow, U.K.

We have also reemphasized our clear intent to end all forms of public financing for new overseas coal-fired power plant. This is designed to orient the flow of capital towards more climate-aligned investments, especially in developing countries.

All of these seem easier said than done – especially to countries like Korea still striving to balance their dependence on high-carbon industries with the green aspirations to meet our goal of Paris Agreement. Yet, the Korean government has demonstrated to the world that climate change is placed at the heart of its domestic and international policies – on the occasions of the Leaders Summit on Climate, and the P4G Summit in Seoul.

Going beyond, Korea also wishes to scale up collaborations with the U.S. on enhancing R&D on clean energy such as hydrogen, electric vehicles, and battery recycling. Tomorrow, I am scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom to participate in the COP26 July Ministerial. I look forward to our strong bilateral cooperation continuing at the global level as well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Korea appreciates the support and the vision that America has provided so far. It has opened doors after doors, leading us to the next levels of partnership. Today, Korea stands as a nation capable of providing critical resources such as nano chips and legacy chips, as well as electric vehicle batteries much needed in the United States. We will continue to remain an all-around partner indispensable and irreplaceable in the future as well.

Korea is committed to working with the U.S. in “building back better” a resilient global economy.
To arrive at this goal, it is important for our two governments to nurture mutual investments, joint research, and closer interactions between all entities, including governments, corporations and academia.
I believe that today’s event will be an opportunity for the two partners to draw a blueprint for such cooperation, starting from overcoming the immediate crisis at hand, to working together in restoring global order, ultimately finding our joint way far into the future.

My particular appreciation goes to the staff of the Atlantic Council which actively supported putting together today’s event. My thanks also go to Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, as well as all the experts participating in the program.

I would like to end my speech with this: you need us, and we need you. To all of you attending today’s event, I thank you.