A Look at the New “Dynamite” Relations Between US-South Korea: From Biden’s Trip to BTS Speech, Ready to Forging a Powerful Team Play?
Written by: Margaretha Giftania Vonta
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, held a tour of East Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan on May, 20. In particular, this was Biden’s first visit to meet the newly elected president of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol. The aims are to emphasize the impact of the Russo-Ukrainian war, strengthen America’s position, and demonstrate the strength of its alliance in Asia. However, it did not stop there; for South Korea, the Biden and Yoon meetings also discussed economic and defense, security cooperation, and North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization and Pyongyang diplomacy.
President Yoon himself enthusiastically welcomed Biden’s visit and hoped for US-South Korean cooperation to strengthen global supply chains and technology support. During Biden’s trip to South Korea, both presidents emphasized their collaboration in developing semiconductor technology which is expected to become a national security asset. The most interesting part of the inaugural meeting of the two major powers is related to military exercises and weapons assistance in dealing with North Korea.
Compared to the previous South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, Yoon Suk Yeol has stated that he will be tougher on North Korea if Pyongyang is determined to attack Seoul. This attitude has strong support from Biden certainly. In addition, Biden and Yoon had decided to strengthen their military alliance to keep the stability of the Indo-Pacific region safe and open. Unsparingly, massive military exercises with aircraft carriers are also a big agenda for the US and South Korea to deal with North Korean attacks. The US also unmitigatedly promised to supply nuclear weapons to South Korea if needed and “strategic assessments” that include long-range bomber aircraft, missile submarines, or aircraft carriers.
For another business, Biden also used the visit to tout investments in the United States by Korean companies, including a move by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group to invest about $5.5 billion to build its first dedicated fully electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facilities through a collaboration with the United States in advanced technology. This move was also followed by a tour of Samsung’s massive semiconductor plan. These two tours of investment are for the United States and South Korea to strengthen their economy and protect national security by “share values”. Yoon himself said, “changes in international trade and supply chains gave new impetus for the two countries to deepen their relationship”. He indeed had an intention to make the Republic of Korea to play a bigger role in regional issues and become one of the inaugural members of Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).
The United States itself had a hectic schedule regarding their diplomatic visit to many countries. There are several issues that Biden wants to address in this opportunity, other than collaboration to face instability conditions related to the Russo-Ukrainian war. In recent years, Asian inclusion, discrimination, and Anti-Asian hate crimes have become a “more prominent” issues in the United States. Biden has the urgency to address these topics with intention to bring a huge impact, especially regarding the solidarity towards Asian race which lives in America. Moreover, after the pandemic COVID-19 fallout, Anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the US have grown considerably. To carry out this mission, Biden saw a bright light in Yoon Seok Yeol’s country. A precious asset of South Korea that now became their proud representative of culture diplomacy, the famous K-pop group band in this era, BTS.
Not long after Biden’s return from South Korea, BTS, received an honorary invitation from the White House to speak for the Anti-Asian Hate campaign and have direct eye-to-eye discussions with the president himself. Seeing BTS’ track records and achievements that have gone global, it was not without reason that Biden intend to invited the boy band consisting of Kim Seokjin, Min Yoongi, Jung Hoseok, Kim Namjoon, Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung, and Jeon Jungkook to make a social call in White House. Previously, BTS had collaborated with UNICEF to release an anti-bullying video for international friendship day and a campaign titled ‘Love Myself’. The resulting impact is so significant. Other than their ability to send an amazing message through their songs, BTS has huge fans known as the ARMY fandom which is spread globally. Seeing the very significant influence and development of BTS in the last few years, of course, it was a special consideration for Biden to invite these seven personnel to talk regarding solidarity, diversity, and inclusivity to prevent racism in the United States.
From the author’s interpretation, BTS not only came as a representative of Asians but also became a symbol of the strong relationship between the United States and South Korea. Biden saw a great opportunity by inviting BTS. As we all know, the violence against race, especially Asian, that occurred in America, has been a concern for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris since they were elected in the US general election. Not only to achieve his vision and mission to eliminate the issue of racism in America but also through BTS; Biden implicitly showed that South Korean and American relations have now entered a new chapter which is certainly closer than before, a “dynamite” chapter.
“Power may reside in the White House, but it is the artists who own the audience. Multiple celebrities have made appearances as the POTUS’ honorable guests in the White House. Their role is central to influence, encourage, and to some extent determine how newly implemented policies are welcomed by society. Elvis Presley had once visited the White House to assist the President’s endeavors in popularizing his administration’s anti-drug campaign. The handshake shared between the two was immortalized in a photograph archived in a notable collection of the US National Archive. However, President Biden’s choice of invited figures to his official residence has sparked my interest. Aside from South Korea’s BTS, Olivia Rodrigo–a Filipino-American singer– was invited last year to promote Covid-19 vaccination. In an optimistic light, we can interpret this as Biden’s commitment to integrate Asian-Americans as an integral part of the melting pot’s society. I firmly believe Biden’s decision to invite BTS to encourage Asian inclusion, address anti-Asian hate crime, and–in its process–strengthen relations with South Korea is not just admirable, but also well-calculated.”
“The United States and South Korea have been strategic partners throughout history. At this present time, the relationship between the two countries has entered a new chapter– that is closer than before. Not only focusing on the economy and security, but the two countries also began to cooperate on cultural aspects. In the future, soft power will be used more frequently by the two countries to overcome socio-political issues that exist in those countries. It is even possible that those countries will collaborate even further to deal with other global issues. This new chapter between the US and South Korea partnership will certainly bring a new dynamic in global politics, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.”
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