High-Level Visitors to Seoul

In January 2014, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se was the first Foreign Minister to visit the U.S. during that year.  This visit was key in shaping our bilateral agenda for the upcoming year.  In the U.S., it was thought of as such a good idea that the State Department decided to replicate it and send not one, but three high-ranking officials to the Republic of Korea in early 2015.

Last week we welcomed Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Rose Gottemoeller, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.  Wendy has had a long involvement with Korean issues and has many old friends here in Seoul.  She had a very productive visit and said that she wants to come back again very soon.  Rose is a well-known nonproliferation expert and also had a great visit – engaging in high level conversations on critical nonproliferation and security issues. 

Next week, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken will arrive for meetings in Seoul on February 9 and 10.  I am very excited for his visit!

(State Department announcement on his visit: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/02/237174.htm
High level visitors in Seoul:  (L-R) Wendy Sherman, Rose Gottemoeller and Antony Blinken

Tony and I have known each other for many, many years.  We met when we both worked as staff members for the Foreign Relations Committee in the United States Senate; he worked for then-Senator Biden and I worked for then-Senator Obama.  Tony moved with Senator Biden to the White House, serving as the National Security Adviser to the Vice President and we worked together in the White House while I was the Chief of Staff at the National Security Council.  Our paths continued to overlap when Tony was Deputy National Security Advisor and I was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs and later Chief of Staff to Secretary Hagel. 

His wife is also with the State Department as the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs.  Previously, she served on the Vice President’s staff.  They are quite active in foreign policy.

Tony’s father and uncle were also ambassadors, so I wonder if he might give me some helpful job tips while he is here.  He is also a big World Cup soccer fan.  At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meetings, he would hand out yellow and red cards to members which everyone found very funny.  I am sure he followed the Asian Cup closely and was proud of the South Korean team’s performance.

Tony also told me that he has heard a great deal about Korean food and wants to get out and eat some delicious Korean dishes and see a few cultural highlights while he is here.  We’re looking forward to a very substantive and fun trip! 

Another VIP arrived in Seoul this week - my mother-in-law, Mary, will be with us for a month.  She is in our guest house, the Legation House, and loves it.  Sejun is her fourth grandchild.  Sejun already has three cousins on Robyn’s side.  Her brother’s children Alex and Wyatt live in Boston.  Her brother is busy working for Goldman Sachs and driving the boys to hockey practice.  My niece Quinn is in Seattle with Robyn’s sister, who is a surgeon there.  Robyn’s father was a well-respected neurosurgeon before he passed away, and the textbook he authored is still in use today – it is called “Operative Neurosurgical Techniques”.   It was so nice to find out that Speaker of the National Assembly Chung Ui-hwa, who is a former neurosurgeon, was aware of the textbook and we had an interesting conversation about Dr. Schmidek and both of their work in the field of neurosurgery.

Mary was able to see all of the grandchildren on her way here.  She normally splits her time between Boston and Vermont.  Since it is her first time to Korea we are thinking of places to bring her and definitely want her to try bulgogi, kimchi-jjigae and samgyetang!  I think she should also try my favorite, chimaek (Korean-style fried chicken and beer).  If you have any places or restaurants that we should be sure to bring her to, please let me know!  It might be hard to coax her away from the main attraction of Sejun, but she is already out and about – she visited the Seoul Deoksugung-guan branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.  I am sure she will get to see a great deal of this beautiful city before she goes back to the U.S.


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