Exploring New Frontiers Together

I remember speaking with President Obama after the U.S.-ROK summit meeting in October 2015.  Our two nations had just decided that the “New Frontiers” of cooperation in the areas of space, cyber, health, energy, and the environment would play a central, pivotal role in our bilateral relationship.  President Obama asked me to do my best to advance the U.S.-ROK Alliance in these important new directions and to help expand our partnership.  He made it clear that the New Frontiers identified by the United States and South Korea were not just talk:  they were a call to action and he hoped to see results. 

Presidents Park and Obama at the White House in October 2015

Over the past year, we have taken many steps to realize the goals laid out at the summit.  These new initiatives are reinforcing an already vibrant and growing alliance between our two great countries.  I was delighted to recount several instances of our success in a recent speech I gave where I also expressed great confidence in our continued movement forward. 

Official programs and progress aside, there is another reason that I have confidence in our New Frontiers initiatives.  In my visits to all corners of the peninsula, I have personally met or heard about some of the amazing people already hard at work to make this vision of our two leaders a reality.  Cooperation in New Frontier areas will build new people-to-people, industry-to-industry, and government-to-government ties.  While institutional efforts are important, ultimately it is the people in our two countries who will truly help us realize these goals.   

After the speech on the “New Frontiers” of cooperation

I would like to briefly share with you a few of the New Frontier areas of cooperation below:

Health Security

In this day and age, people and goods move quickly across borders.  An isolated outbreak of illness can be just an airplane flight away from transforming into a full-blown epidemic.  In this fast-paced environment of modern international travel, the effective administration of global health security requires close cooperation between nations. 

Washington and Seoul recently joined together to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  South Korea alone sent 24 health-care workers to Sierra Leone and contributed $17.6 million to defeat the virus.  I had the opportunity to meet these health-care workers last October and to thank them for their brave service.  The team had many stories to tell about their time in West Africa and, as one of the doctors told me, the experience of treating Ebola patients had a profound effect on the entire team. 

After returning home, all of the health-care workers agreed to lead an effort for the Korean government to help poor countries strengthen their ability to respond to biological threats.  I was greatly impressed by the team’s courage and inspired by their willingness to aid others, even if it meant placing themselves in great peril.  As long as there are people of this caliber dedicated to the effort, our public health initiatives are bound to succeed.    

With Deputy Secretary Blinken, thanking health-care workers for their brave service

The Environment

Controlling pollution and preventing climate change are two important environmental priorities.  We must all work together to preserve the health of our planet and the life it sustains.  The United States and the Republic of Korea have embarked upon a number of initiatives to improve and protect our environment.       

I recently had the pleasure of hosting an Earth Day celebration in the backyard of my residence.  A group of 29 differently-abled Korean children came over to plant lettuce, eggplant, red pepper and tomatoes.  Their plan was not only to offset the carbon emissions of industry by increasing green space, but also to improve the health of my family by providing us with organic food.  I found it amazing that these kids, despite contending with great personal challenges, also had the strength to care so much about others and our environment.  Planting seeds in the earth was not easy for all of the kids, but they were able to solve all logistical problems and created a beautiful garden together.  The level of care and dedication they showed gave me confidence in humanity’s ability to protect our environment and filled me with hope for the future.  

Earth Day celebration in the backyard of my residence!

Space Cooperation

Space exploration is important to the future of the world.  It brings about new technology, promotes the study of science and technology, and creates jobs.  Perhaps most important of all, space exploration captures the imagination and inspires people to explore the universe we live in.

This April, Foreign Minister Yun and I signed a landmark agreement on space cooperation that paved the way for enhanced collaboration in the exploration of outer space.  Through this agreement, our nations hope to engage in cutting edge planetary exploration and Earth observation. 

At the signing ceremony, I met six South Korean high school students who won an international NASA competition with their design of a settlement for 10,000 humans in space.  Their clever plan involved melting ice from asteroids to collect oxygen and water as well as building the structure close to Earth in order to shield its inhabitants from space radiation.  Their drive, dedication, and imagination are very inspiring.  Young minds such as these will truly be the engine that pushes humanity to the stars. 

Listening to a fascinating space project by Korean high school students

There are many more amazing stories to tell about the people in South Korea who are pioneering New Frontiers.  The examples I’ve provided represent only a few of the thousands of individuals doing ground-breaking work in these new areas of cooperation.  I look forward to meeting as many of them as I can during my time in South Korea and I’m excited to see what type of world we can create together.  


  1. The world community is deeply concerned about the levels of cruelty of South Korea with the illegal trade in dogs and cats meat.

    Please talk to Korean authorities to end this macabre practice... We must put pressure across South Korea!

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