The new South Korean ambassador to the United States says his country needs to continue its trade surplus to help support foreign debts and large military budgets.
Park Tong Jin, who has been the South Korean ambassador for three months, said that while South Korea is committed to the "ongoing process" of opening markets to U.S. products, the people in the U.S. must understand the country's need to maintain a trade surplus to help make foreign debt payments and maintain a military buildup."We still have a $35 billion foreign debt. We want to pay back the debt, mostly to U.S. banks, without interruption," Park said. "People must also realize that national defense is one-third of our total national budget."
Park made the comments during a Deseret News interview at the Salt Lake International Airport. He was on his way to a vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Park said that bilateral talks with the United States are continuing. Major prog-ress has been made in lowering tariffs on potatoes, corn and wheat.
"We are a good client of agricultural products. We are also continuing to endeavor to diversify the source of imports," he said.
Korea is also encouraging more joint ventures with U.S. companies.
He said he was optimistic because of a recent Department of Commerce report, which shows the trade imbalance narrowing.
"The U.S. is after all always been a world trade leader. I think it is a temporary phenomenon," Park said.
He said that Americans need to maintain self-confidence in their ability to rebound in trade.
In practical terms, he said that U.S. business people must not wait for Koreans to come to them or they will never get into Korean markets.
"One simple way to increase penetration is to come in contact with the Korean business circles and intensify sales promotion. They need to visit their Korean counterparts (in Korea)," he said.
Park predicts that further economic expansion as well as democrati-zation will continue. Most recently, the administration of Roh Tae Woo has made sweeping reforms that Park said has "completely changed" things.
He said the 1988 Summer Games will serve as Korea's right of passage from the Third World.
"The Olympics, economic success and political progress will help us have a better and more comfortable position in the world community," he said.