Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Park urged to boost profile at US Capitol

Kim Hyo-jin, koreatimes.co.kr

Bob image from article
President Park Geun-hye's political profile is weaker than that of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe among U.S. lawmakers, according to a Washington insider.
If this is true, the perception gap could affect Washington's East Asia policies in the coming years amid rising concern among Korean policymakers about Japan becoming an increasingly favored ally in the U.S. pivot to Asia.
"Overall, Abe is doing well. He comes across as a pretty good politician from the American perspective," said Daniel Bob, director of programs and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Sasakawa Peace Foundation, in an interview with The Korea Times. ...
Two recent visits by the two leaders Washington showed a big contrast, he added.
"When Abe came to the U.S. in April, it was managed extremely well and high-profile including the speech in front of the joint meeting of the Congress. Whereas, Park's official summit was shorter and not quite as high profile."
The expert also noted that the Abe administration has put aside a large amount of funds for public diplomacy in the U.S. in order to raise its profile there.
Citing roughly $400 million dollars used in such efforts, he said. A large sum of money was spent on establishing Japan studies programs at Ivy League universities, student exchange programs, and cultural institutions such as the Washington-based Freer Gallery of Art.
Nonetheless, he added that Korea appears to have potential to have a bigger voice in Washington.
"There are 20,000 voters of the cohesive Korean-American community that secured a prominent position in the U.S. and Koreans have a much greater ability to present themselves to American audiences than Japanese," he said.
Japan has presented the sexual slavery issue in a most counterproductive way under the Abe administration, talking about specific numbers of the victims being wrong or blaming non-governmental factors, he underlined.
"It leaves Americans wondering whether the Japanese are trying to minimize what happened, which was terrible stuff," he said, noting concerns on the issue spread in the U.S.
Bob however called for Korea to reexamine the perception that it competes with Japan in the U.S.
"It is important to realize that when it comes to Japan and Korea in Washington, basically I don't think many people hold the view that there's competition between them. You're both allies and partners with democracy, open economies, and shared values," he said.
"Such perception hasn't existed in Washington for long, but has only played out that way since the comfort women issue arose." ...

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