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South Korean President Yoon to go to White Home, Congress this week Lalrp

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SEOUL — President Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk Yeol, don’t have a complete lot in frequent.

They arrive from totally different ends of the political spectrum. Biden is liberal and a lifelong politician, whereas conservative Yoon first entered politics solely two years in the past to run for president. Being a father and grandfather is central to Biden’s id; Yoon didn’t get married till he was 51 and has no youngsters.

But the 2 males agree on one factor: The alliance between their two nations is extra vital than ever.

Biden will host Yoon on the White Home this week for a state dinner to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the mutual protection treaty that sure collectively their safety pursuits after the Korean Conflict ended with a cease-fire. On Thursday, Yoon is scheduled to ship a speech at a joint session of Congress, the primary South Korean president in a decade to take action.

For Yoon, who’s now 62 and has not spent a lot time in america, this week’s occasions will likely be a whirlwind alternative to point out he’s severe about strengthening ties with america.

“A very powerful factor [for this week] is for it to be a chance for the individuals of each nations to correctly acknowledge the historic significance of the … alliance and its achievements,” Yoon mentioned in an interview with The Washington Submit at his presidential workplace in Seoul, a lot of which was targeted on his private life and upcoming journey.

The alliance was solid within the aftermath of World Conflict II, when america backed South Korea and the Soviet Union threw its communist weight behind North Korea and China.

“It’s certainly probably the most profitable alliance in historical past and, above all, an alliance based mostly on values,” Yoon mentioned.

Though Washington would possibly quibble with the characterization, the safety pacts with Japan and South Korea have change into more and more vital as China has made clear its intent to problem america’ world primacy economically and militarily.

Biden has emphasised the function of alliances in countering geopolitical challenges from East Asia to Jap Europe.

Yoon can count on to come back below strain this week to observe swimsuit with different democracies by supplying artillery shells to Ukraine, which is operating critically low on ammunition.

Seoul is sitting on an unlimited ammunition stockpile however has refused to ship any to Ukraine out of concern for its relations with Moscow. Final week, Yoon instructed Reuters that “it may be tough” for South Korea to “insist solely on humanitarian or monetary help” if the state of affairs worsens.

“After all, Ukraine is below an unlawful invasion, so it’s applicable to supply a spread of assist, however with regards to how and what we’ll provide, we can’t however think about many direct and oblique relationships between our nation and the warring nations,” Yoon instructed The Submit.

Different frictions stay in U.S.-South Korea relations, such because the repercussions of the Inflation Discount Act and the Chips Act on South Korean producers, in addition to a rising want amongst South Koreans to accumulate their very own nuclear weapons regardless of the U.S. safety assure.

Yoon mentioned he expects to debate a spread of points going through the alliance in Washington this week and past.

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Official Washington has lengthy believed that conservative South Korean presidents, who are likely to hew nearer to america than liberals, are simpler to work with.

Certainly, Yoon has cleared a number of hurdles within the two nations’ alliance in his first 12 months in workplace. He has resumed joint navy workouts with america to organize for a possible North Korean assault, labored with america to lower world provide chain dependence on China, and most notably, he has taken a politically dangerous transfer to make amends with Japan after years of hostilities.

However Yoon, a political novice who squeaked into workplace simply over a 12 months in the past, stays one thing of an enigma even to longtime Korea watchers in Washington. He carefully guarded his ideological leanings throughout his profession as a prosecutor, together with two as prosecutor common — one of the crucial highly effective positions in South Korea.

To grasp his pondering, it’s value a rewind to his early profession. In Korean, there’s a saying: When you fall seven instances, you rise eight instances.

But, it took Yoon — who graduated from considered one of South Korea’s most prestigious universities — 9 tries to move the nationwide bar examination. South Korea’s nationwide bar examination is notoriously tough and was much more selective then, however 9 years was nonetheless a very long time.

That meant he didn’t begin his profession as prosecutor till the unusually late age of 33.

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The son of a tutorial, he had a snug childhood. Some mates who had been near him then say Yoon marched to the beat of his personal drum and on his personal timeline to pursue what he believed was vital.

“If he believed he was doing what was proper, then he didn’t care a lot about how others considered his actions, or how different individuals evaluated him,” mentioned Lee Chul-kyu, an legal professional and Yoon’s school pal. “Many people from these days recall how decisive he was, fairly than grappling with indecision.”

As prosecutor, Yoon continued on this vein.

Among the many most dramatic moments of his prosecutorial profession got here in 2013, when he investigated alleged election interference by the Nationwide Intelligence Service to help Park Geun-hye, the conservative candidate and eventual victor.

Throughout a tense Nationwide Meeting listening to on the time, Yoon revealed that he confronted political strain due to his investigation.

“I’m not loyal to any particular person,” he mentioned, an assertion of indignance that cemented his nationwide picture as a steely prosecutor upholding the regulation, which was solely strengthened when he turned the presidential candidate for the political bloc that Park as soon as led.

However the 2013 investigation got here at an expert price. He was transferred to second-tier cities, successfully demoted and sidelined.

“I believed that if these establishments intervened even a bit of within the election and broken individuals’s belief, it needed to be corrected,” he recalled. “That’s why I carried out the investigation. If I had been in that place once more, I might most likely do my work in that very same approach.”

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Yoon’s uncompromising strategy has been evident in his first 12 months as president and has been met with combined critiques.

Take his effort to enhance relations with Japan. For practically 80 years, the 2 nations have had a rocky relationship over unresolved historic disputes stemming from Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea within the first half of the twentieth century.

He has poured political capital into resolving a controversial labor compensation dispute on the heart of Seoul-Tokyo tensions — although 60 % of South Koreans disapprove of his proposal — and final month turned the primary South Korean chief to go to Japan in 12 years to point out he needs to revive ties.

Throughout the practically 90-minute interview, Yoon spoke at size about his determination on Japan, saying he had been clear about his intentions throughout his marketing campaign. South Korea’s safety considerations had been too pressing to delay cooperation with Tokyo, he mentioned, including that some critics would by no means be satisfied.

“Europe has skilled a number of wars for the previous 100 years and regardless of that, warring nations have discovered methods to cooperate for the longer term,” he mentioned. “I can’t settle for the notion that due to what occurred 100 years in the past, one thing is completely unattainable [to do] and that they [Japanese] should kneel [for forgiveness] due to our historical past 100 years in the past. And this is a matter that requires determination. … By way of persuasion, I consider I did my finest.”

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However his most polarizing strikes have centered on gender. Yoon has drawn criticism for his proposal to remove the Ministry of Gender Equality and Household, and advocates say a devoted pro-women and household company is critical given South Korea’s poor report on gender equality and its hostility towards the LGBTQ group.

The patriarchal system, mixed with rising revenue inequality and a housing disaster, means youthful Koreans are more and more suspending or eschewing marriage and kids.

Yoon himself married for the primary time at 51 — one thing that’s extremely uncommon in South Korea. His spouse, Kim Keon Hee, 50, is a enterprise government who based an artwork exhibition firm. Yoon has mentioned he and Kim linked over his informal curiosity in artwork historical past and artwork galleries.

“My happiest reminiscence is lastly assembly my spouse and marrying her at a late age, in my 50s,” he mentioned.

They don’t have any human youngsters, however they do have six canines and 5 cats, largely rescues. (Yoon shares this in frequent with Biden, who additionally has a rescue canine.)

In non-public, he’s surprisingly unfiltered, in response to those that met with him in closed-door conferences. He will be unpolished in public settings, too — and final 12 months, it led to a viral hot-mic second when he insulted lawmakers whereas at a world well being occasion in New York Metropolis. Biden, who calls himself a “gaffe-machine,” may most likely empathize.

Yoon mentioned he has lengthy been fascinated by the U.S. constitutional system and its world influence, and he loved American songs and tv exhibits rising up. Now, as president, he has a present from Biden that he retains on his desk — a replica of Harry S. Truman’s plaque that reads: “The buck stops right here!”

Min Joo Kim contributed to this report.