Republic of Korea (ROK) President Park Geun-hye chose China for her second overseas visit since becoming president. Her first visit was, understandably, to the United States, a Korean ally. But, unusually, Park skipped Japan. Her choice seems to reflect growing South Korean resentment of the country, where the Abe government denies Japan's war crimes and the Japanese right seems bent on reviving Japanese militarism. Perhaps more disturbing to Park is the fact that the Japanese right has staged racist anti-South Korean rallies on more than one occasion.
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye delivers an address at Tsinghua University during her state visit to China in Beijing June 29, 2013. [Photo/China Daily]
By contrast, the Mandarin-fluent Park loves Chinese culture. She has read many Chinese classics and holds an honorary degree from Taiwan's Chinese Culture University. As Park said while speaking at Tsinghua University on June 29, "During my most difficult time, it was China's famous scholar Feng Youlan's History of Chinese Philosophy that served as the beacon of my life and helped me regain my inner calm."
When Park visited Washington, President Obama called her "tough." But in Beijing, she exuded feminine charm. These are the two sides of the ROK president: soft on the outside, but firm on the inside.
She chose to deliver a speech at Tsinghua because the university is President Xi's alma mater. She appeared in a purple suit, probably because purple is Tsinghua's campus color, and wore bauhinia, the university's campus flower. She began and ended her speech in Mandarin and recited Chinese classics "Zhong Yong" (The Doctrine of the Mean) and "Guanzi" in Chinese, which charmed her young audience.
Park also visited Xi'an, where, in addition to the many South Korean enterprises already operating, a massive $7 billion Samsung Electronics plant is under construction - the single biggest investment in China by a South Korean firm. The cultural capital is also where President Xi once worked.
In Xi'an, the provincial chief gave ROK president a pair of red ibis, the rare bird native to Xi'an. The two red ibis Park received from China in 2008 have now proliferated to twenty-seven.
Cultural affinity between the two countries brings them closer together. At a luncheon with President and Madam Xi, Park was given a Tang poem expressing hope that ties between the two countries would grow even stronger.
Park had a very good meeting with Xi, according to media reports. She was also received by Prime Minister Li Keqiang and National People's Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang. In short she was given full honors, including a twenty-one gun salute and a review of honor guard. She in turn took China by storm.
Park characterized her China visit as one of heartfelt trust. In the China-ROK Joint Statement, Xi and Park agreed to further develop the future vision of their strategic partnership.
Both sides agree that a denuclearized Korean Peninsula is in the interest of all involved and pledged to pursue denuclearization through six-party talks.
Park came with a huge delegation of seventy-one business leaders, as China is ROK's largest trading partner. The two countries agreed to further negotiations for a China-ROK Free Trade Area Agreement. South Korean Hyundai cars, Samsung cell phones and LG TVs are already ubiquitous in China.
The Washington Times gushed: There is a love-fest going in China. Is that an exaggeration?
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