Korea Times, 12 October 2005
S. Korean Envoy to US Pledges Efforts for FTA
By Park Song-wu
Seoul and Washington need to begin talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible, Lee Tae-sik, South Korea’s new ambassador to the United States, said in Seoul Wednesday.
``The two countries have already recognized the necessity of the early start of the FTA talks,’’ he told reporters hours after receiving credentials from President Roh Moo-hyun.
Seoul and Washington have been discussing the FTA but did not officially announce the start of negotiations as they are at odds over key issues, including U.S. beef imports and theater screen quotas.
The 60-year-old career diplomat, who departs for Washington to assume his new post Thursday, indicated that the two countries have put too much importance on security alliance until now.
``I think the two countries have gained enough momentum to build new relations in economy and trade, even though it is still necessary to continue discussing security-related issues,’’ he said.
The new ambassador said he will make efforts to upgrade the Seoul-Washington alliance in a ``comprehensive’’ way.
``I think it is important to deliver the true meaning of our policies to the U.S. and help American citizens clearly understand our policies,’’ he said.
Lee replaces Hong Seok-hyun, who resigned in September over a slush funds scandal in the lead-up to the 1997 presidential election when he was publisher of the JoongAng Ilbo, a major daily.
Lee served as ambassador to Britain and Israel, deputy executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), deputy foreign minister and director-general of the ministry’s trade bureau.
He received a B.A. in international relations from Seoul National University and graduated from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.