While South Korea‘s parliament is split over ratifying the free-trade agreement passed by the Congress Oct. 13, a former Korean prime minister didn’t equivocate when outlining the deal’s benefits in Atlanta.

“The free trade agreement will help Korea to become more secure defensively and help us maintain the security we have had in partnership for so many years,” Chung Un-chan said in a GlobalAtlanta interview nearly a week before the vote.

President Obama sent agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for an up-or-down vote Oct. 4. Each of the deals were signed more than three years ago under President George W. Bush. The Korea pact was renegotiated in December.

Congress overwhelmingly approved all three deals ahead of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak‘s visit to the U.S. this week.

Appointed by Mr. Lee, Dr. Chung served as prime minister in 2009-10. A professor at Seoul National University for more than 20 years, Dr. Chung was also the prestigious institution’s president from 2002-06.

The Asian American Resource Center hosted a gala in Dr. Chung’s honor on Oct. 7 at the Marriott Gwinnett Place, kicking off the center’s biggest fundraising weekend of the year.

His visit came just after the trade pacts were sent to Congress. The Korea deal is expected to boost U.S. exports by $10 billion and provide U.S. suppliers greater access to Korean government-procurement contracts. Korea is the seventh largest trading partner for the U.S., and the deal is the largest free-trade pact since Nafta was enacted in 1994.

Echoing Dr. Chung’s sentiment, Hyun-tae Shin, president of the National Unification Advisory Council- Atlanta, advocated ratification of the agreement. 

“The current relations between South Korea and U.S. will become stronger by allowing more active trade which in turn can mean stronger economic development for both countries,” Mr. Shin said.

The event brought together local business owners, politicians and community leaders who welcomed Dr. Chung upon his first visit to Atlanta.

His keynote speech, given in Korean, focused on the present and future state of Korea’s economy and encouraged Atlanta’s Korean-American community to be more open and confident.

The Asian American Resource Center was created in 1997 and provides social services, educational programs and cultural awareness.

Visit www.aarc-atlanta.org for more information.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...