September 14, 2011
On 13 September 2011, the White House announced the President Obama would receive President Lee Myung-bak and his wife on 13 October 2011 for a state visit. The two leaders are expected to discuss a range of economic and security issues, including progress towards implementation of the Korea-United States (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The visit will prove to be consequential due to the potential impact it could potentially have on attitudes towards the United States in the lead-up to the National Assembly and Presidential elections in 2012.
There are currently a number of issues that have the potential to contribute to wider anti-American sentiment. These include popular and social media coverage of incidents involving uncivil behaviour by U.S. citizens in ROK; perceptions of U.S. involvement in the construction of an ROKN base in Seogwipo, Jeju; perceived U.S. restraints on ROK nuclear sovereignty in current negotiations for the renewal of the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement; and ongoing concerns regarding the impact of U.S imports on the Korean agricultural sector after the implementation of the KORUS FTA.
Conservative forces will be hoping that Lee’s visit demonstrates a more positive and equal relationship with the United States, thus ensuring it does not impact public attitudes in the lead-up to National Assembly and Presidential elections in 2012. Accordingly, there remains a degree of risk in Lee’s visit to the U.S.