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Ambassador to U.S. Lee returns

Posted August. 24, 2000 12:31,   


Lee Hong-Koo, 66, the first ambassador to the United States appointed by the current government, returned home to Korea on Wednesday following his service of two years and three months, which included a reappointment to the office.

Ambassador Lee, who had been a subject of a retirement debate among diplomats while in office answered questions concerning his future plans. "Even if I were teaching in a university, I would have reached retirement age,¡± he said. ¡°I plan to rest. But, let us see."

Having had a career as a professor at Seoul National University, he has worked at various key positions in the ruling party of successive governments such as the ambassador to United Kingdom, unification minister, Prime Minister and the chairman of the New Korean Party.

Concerning his return:

"I feel comfortable, as I feel I have fulfilled all of my responsibilities,¡± Lee said. ¡°However, one`s work for the country can`t be given even a day`s rest. I am sure there will be much more work to do for the minister of foreign affairs and trade."

On North Korea:

He also expressed his opinion on the current government`s policy toward North Korea in the light of his experience of having been a key member of the previous policy toward the North.

"Regardless of the inter-Korean differences, we must restore the unity of the people. In order to create a new meaningful cooperative unity, we must work with a long-term vision. There may not be major hurdles, but it will take much time. We need to make careful plans and effort."

On the Status of Forces Agreement with the United States:

"It really isn`t an issue for overt worry,¡± he said. ¡°However, as our status has been on the rise compared to the past, we must cope with this and other problems wisely and unhurriedly."

On North Korea-U.S. relationship:

"It will progress very quickly,¡± he speculated. ¡°If the inter-Korean relationship improves, it will lead to improvement of the North-U.S. relationship. The overall outlook is very bright. We must be careful and learn the lessons of history as we continue dealing with North Korea.¡±

Boo Hyung-Kwon bookum90@donga.com