University Press Exclusive with U.S. Ambassador
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University Press Exclusive with U.S. Ambassador
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  • 승인 2006.06.01 00:00
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▲ [Photo by Kim Na-hyun]Alexander Vershbow (U.S. Ambassador to Korea)

   The current U.S. ambassador Alexander Vershbow was first commissioned to South Korea last October. Although he is most highly regarded for his excellence in diplomacy, he is also known for being an outstanding drummer. Last December, Mr. Vershbow surprised a large crowd with his debut performance at the "Once In a Blue Moon" cafe On April 28, however, it was university students who were privileged to meet the multitalented ambassador at an exclusive press conference held at the U.S. embassy.
   Mr. Vershbow began with a short speech mentioning that Korea and the U.S. have become far more than mere security alliances. The U.S. being Korea's second largest trading partner, and first investor, and Korea being the U.S.'s seventh largest trading partner, with over 9,000 troops dispatched in U.S. occupied territory were some of the points mentioned.
   As to the question of what the solution to the anti-American sentiment in Korea should be, (in light of the 20th anniversary of the suicide protest of Kim Se-jin and Lee Je-ho, on April 28, 1986), Vershbow answered that first, lingering on past feelings has not helped Korea in crucial moments for democracy, and that the past should be left for the historians to make the final judgment. "The key to this solution is to focus where we are today in the 21st century," said Vershbow. He also claimed that it is important to see the countries's common ground and look at a mature relationship rather than a dependent Senior-Junior relationship, as was prevalent in the past.
   On the question about the dangers of the U.S.-Korea FTA eroding the Korean market, especially the agricultural sectors, Vershbow emphasized that the countries have both so far benefited from open trade, especially as Korea's economy is highly dependent on export. Korea's goal now should be to open up the financial hub to more foreign companies to accelerate competition and action. The ambassador admits that it depends on the negotiators to concoct a balanced solution to these problems of faltering sectors, such as allowing a longer transmission period or providing subsidies. In either case, Vershbow quipped that we should give the negotiators more credit, for they will make sure there is an equal benefit.
   When asked whether U.S. sides with Japan on the legal claims of Dok-do, Vershbow claimed that that is an inaccurate report, and the U.S. takes a neutral stance on the legal claims over the territory. He hopes that Korea and Japan will engage in conversation as it is hard to watch the two countries in conflict.
   The final question posed was what the ambassador thought should be the social role of college students. He first said that of course it is important to study hard, but it is also important for students to engage in extra-curricular activities outside the walls of the university. He said that in the U.S. a strong spirit of volunteerism is prevalent throughout the college community. Thus students often participate as volunteers, interns, and legal system workers. He said that in the U.S. students would not only experience the society but also contribute in social problem solving. Overall, in the U.S. the spirit of volunteerism is not tied to political orientation; it is widespread in both liberal (or progressive) and conservative circles alike. He hopes that it will be this way on Korean campuses also.


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