Historical Highlights

Roh Tae Woo, President of the Republic of Korea, addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress

October 18, 1989
Roh Tae Woo, President of the Republic of Korea, addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office The second South Korean President to address Congress, President Roh Tae Woo's speech was well received.
On this date, President Roh Tae Woo of the Republic of Korea addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress. In the wake of an attack on the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Seoul, South Korea, Roh planned on reaffirming the country’s friendship with the United States. Newspapers highlighted Roh’s late decision to deliver his address in English instead of Korean. The move pleased many Congressmen, but disappointed many Koreans. Students in Seoul protested Roh’s visit to the U.S. and accused him of kowtowing to the U.S. Despite U.S. concerns about human rights violations in  Korea involving the arrests of non-violent protestors, Roh was invited to meet with Congress as the first democratically-elected Republic of Korea president since 1961. In his speech, President Roh focused on the strong relationship between the countries extending back to the Korean War (1950–1953), “If you ask a Korean what America means to his country, his answer will be simple and clear: we are allies,” Roh said. “And if you ask your constituents what Korea means to America, I am sure the answer will be the same. For us, the word ‘ally’ resonates with deep feelings of friendship, trust and enduring commitment.” He requested that the United States maintain its military presence in the country so not to upset the balance with North Korea. Roh was the second Republic of Korea president to address Congress. In 1954, President Syngman Rhee was the first, when he addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress to thank the United States for its intervention in the Korean War.

Related Highlight Subjects