Remarks at a Reception for Korean Community Leaders in Seoul

November 12, 1983

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Nancy and I are honored to be so warmly greeted by your distinguished group.

We've come to Korea to demonstrate the deep and affectionate concern that the American people have for your country. Our hearts went out to you in the wake of the two murderous attacks on your citizens, and we came today to say that we'll continue to steadfastly stand by you. We hope our presence in your country will show the world our firm support for Korea.

Probably the most important contribution we can make here is to continue helping protect your national security. Our shared commitment to your defense is symbolized by the presence of American soldiers standing with Koreans along the demilitarized zone. This is the shield that enables you to pursue your bold economic and political objectives.

We also support your development of a democratic political system. As you know, the United States pays close attention to political developments in Korea, particularly those that are affecting democratic rights -- a matter very important to Americans. We do this not because we believe our security commitment gives us a right to intervene in your internal affairs, but simply because such issues are at the center of our own political ideology and, we feel, are reflected, then, in our foreign policy.

But in approaching such internal matters, I believe it's important to adhere to the discipline of diplomacy, rather than indulging in public posturing. This has been the policy of our administration throughout the world. Where we feel strongly about a particular situation, we make our views known, often quite candidly, to the appropriate level of the government concerned.

I have faith in the Korean people's ability to find a political system meeting their democratic aspirations, even in the face of the heavy security challenge presented by the North. You have accomplished so much already in the face of that threat. Who would have predicted a mere 20 years ago that an impoverished Korea would become one of the world's legendary economic success legends?

This was a Korean accomplishment. Your friends offered help and guidance as these were needed, but they didn't seek to dictate your course. Political development may, in some respects, be a more difficult process, but it, too, is one in which you alone must control.

I respect and strongly support President Chun's pledge to turn over power constitutionally in 1988. This will be an invaluable political legacy to the Korean people. And I believe in the will and ability of the Korean people to develop the foundations required for viable democratic institutions. The shared democratic aspirations of our two peoples are important to our relationship, and continued progress toward the broadening of democracy in Korea strengthens the ties between our two countries. As you continue along this path of political evolution, you do so with our deep support, our affection, and our prayers.

And, again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your warm and very gracious welcome from the first moment that we arrived here today. We are deeply grateful. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 6:45 p.m. at the U.S. Embassy.