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Korea Int’l Trade Ass’n Invites Al Gore to Seoul

Posted November. 06, 2008 09:38,   


Attention is being drawn to Korean business connections to the U.S. Democratic Party in the wake of Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president.

Korean businessmen have traditionally had closer ties with the Republicans. This is why the Korea International Trade Association is inviting former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to Seoul Nov. 14, to strengthen ties with the Democrats.

Chung Tong-soo, head of the state-run office Invest Korea, is one of the most prominent Korean businessmen with links to the Democrats. He joined the transition committee of the Clinton administration in 1992 and served as acting deputy assistant secretary for service industries and finance in the U.S. Commerce Department.

Interest is also growing in Chung’s ex-boss, former Commerce Secretary William Daley, since Daley is from Chicago, Obama’s political hometown. Daley is a prominent supporter of Obama who is likely to serve in the next U.S. administration.

Chung immigrated to the United States while in high school and majored in sociology at Harvard University. He later graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the UCLA School of Law, working as an international lawyer afterwards.

Poongsan Group Chairman Ryu Jin has strong ties with the Democrats as well as Republicans. He knows well former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who publicly endorsed Obama Oct. 19.

Ryu is said to have played a major role in inviting Gore to Seoul next week. Around 400 to 500 Korean business leaders will attend a dinner to hear Gore’s views on Korea-U.S. relations at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel Nov. 14.

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn is also known to be close to the Democrats. His late father and the group’s founder had cooperative links with the U.S. defense industry. Hanwha’s ties with U.S. troops stationed in Korea and the U.S. Embassy have remained strong.

Based on his connections, Chairman Kim established and initially headed the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council in 2001, expanding Korea’s networks with the United States. He has had contact with Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, and Congressman Earl Pomeroy, a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Federation of Korean Industries Chairman Cho Suk-rai is closer to the Republicans, as he has strong ties with the United States overall through participation in Korea-U.S. business meetings. Cho is thus expected to get along well with U.S. Democrats.

His federation has also invited former U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who served under the Clinton administration, to speak at a seminar on the financial crisis and U.S. government policy Nov. 18 to expand its connections with the Democrats.

Major groups such as Samsung, LG and SK plan to officially contact the Democrats through their U.S. offices.

A business source said, “Korea does have a weak link with U.S. Democrats. In this respect, Korea will contact the pro-Democratic Party Brookings Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies if necessary to expand its connections and seek further economic cooperation with the U.S.”

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