A Full Day in Incheon

As regular readers will know, one of the great pleasures of being the U.S. Ambassador is that that I have the opportunity to experience wonderful things all over Korea.  My recent trips to Busan, Gwangju, and Jeju Island were amazing.  But I don’t want to miss the great places close to my home in Seoul.  This past week, I visited Incheon for a day packed with sports, history, and cooperative exploration and development.

The day began with a tour of Incheon International Airport (ICN), where I got to see the control tower and the work underway to build the second passenger terminal.  After spending time with some of the Air Traffic Controllers, I’m in awe of their expertise. 

I met with Mr. Park Wan-su, President of the Incheon International Airport Corporation, and we discussed how the U.S. and Korea can better partner to make Incheon a regional hub and add new routes. 
Thank you for the hospitality, Mr. Park!

It’s easy to see why ICN has topped the Airports International Council list of best airports in the world for the past 10 years.  Incheon’s polite and professional staff ensures that travelers have a great experience.  Like many visitors to Incheon, I stopped by the Traditional Korean Cultural Experience Zone to check out the traditional Korean culture on display.  I had the chance to make a hand mirror with some of the guides. 
Hand mirror making at the Incheon International Airport

After touring the airport, I visited the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, which is fantastic.  The course is in the middle of upgrades in preparation for the PGA President’s Cup in October.  The visuals are stunning—a gorgeous course set against a backdrop of skyscrapers.  If my hand was not hurt, I wouldn’t have been able to resist playing a round.  While there, I got to meet with Matt Kamienski, PGA Executive Director, Roy Ryu, Chairman of the President’s Cup Organizing Committee, and Jaechan Kim, Senior Vice President for Foreign Investment at Gale International, who built the course in consultation with Jack Nicklaus himself. 
The golf course looked fantastic!

Then it was on to Freedom Park, where I was honored to meet with civic groups who take pride in fostering relations between South Korea and the United States.  I felt a deep sense of gratitude for their work.  So much of Freedom Park is a testament to the longstanding, close relationship between the United States and South Korea, from the Centennial Monument commemorating the Treaty of Amity between our two countries in 1882, to the statue of General MacArthur marking the site of the Incheon Landing. 
At Freedom Park

Finally, after contemplating the history of U.S.-ROK cooperation, I got to celebrate a newer avenue of cooperation with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se aboard the ROK Araon icebreaker ship, celebrating two years of South Korea’s participation in the Arctic Council.  The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that provides a means for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States.  The United States is chair of the Arctic Council this year and, through both countries’ participation, we’ve found new ways to work together. 
The Araon icebreaker ship

Secretary Kerry recently gave a speech outlining our three priorities as chair:  Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship.  This means taking steps to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on the Arctic, as well as sustainable economic development for Arctic communities. (Read Secretary Kerry’s remarks here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2015/04/241102.htm)  

Korea’s advanced technology and history of ship building makes it a strong partner for environmental and ecological research in the Arctic.  In fact, in our arctic research, we’re practically neighbors.  Our research stations are a mere 230 miles apart! 

All in all, it was a very busy but fruitful day in Incheon.  Next time I visit, I hope to try a bowl of jajangmyeon at Incheon’s famous Chinatown!

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