Strengthening US-ROK Ties at the Congressional Level
COMMENTARY

April 5, 2024by Pious Jung and Yunil Hwang, Co-CEOs, CJ America
Strengthening US-ROK Ties at the Congressional Level
President Joe Biden, alongside South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a news conference inside the South Korean Ministry of National Defense in May 2022. (Photo by Evan Vucci, Associated Press)

Few geopolitical partnerships are more enduring, mutually beneficial and personal than the one between the Unites States and South Korea. Last year, the two countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of their relationship, which began as a military alliance and has expanded to become an economic and strategic partnership. At the same time, cultural exchange and person-to-person diplomacy have bound the two countries at intimate levels seen in few other bilateral relationships. 

Last year marked the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first wave of Korean migrants to the United States. The U.S. and South Korea have fought side by side in conflicts inside and outside of Korea. It is a tie truly forged in blood and love. 

Relations between the two countries are at an all-time high, diplomatically, economically and culturally. The U.S. and South Korea partner on matters ranging from trade to technology to security and diplomacy. The U.S. and South Korea launched consultive groups on nuclear energy and regional affairs last year, strengthening defense ties. South Korea is the leading country making cleantech and semiconductor investments in the U.S. over the past two years.

Americans are also embracing South Korean culture as their own, whether it’s celebrating Korean films such as “Parasite,” choosing Korean dramas on Netflix, packing arenas for BTS and Blackpink or setting attendance records at KCON, the annual festival of K-culture held in Los Angeles, California. South Korean culture is truly here to stay in the United States.

This partnership engages in consumer, commercial and government channels. The most high-profile government-to-government exchange occurs at the presidential level, as shown by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to Washington last year. 

Equally important work occurs at the state level, where South Korean investment happens. State governments have excelled in creating favorable conditions for South Korean companies to locate and expand in the United States, creating tens of thousands of American jobs and billions in economic development. These splashy projects receive local and national attention. 

Critical work also happens at the interparliamentary level, between the U.S. Congress and the South Korean National Assembly. This is where laws are made that create favorable conditions for the two countries to grow. Relationships between members of each body and their staffs make this happen. The hallmark example of this is the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2012.

In recent years, the presence and influence of Korean American members of Congress has grown significantly. Their unique perspectives enrich the discourse on matters of common interest, contributing to a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to policymaking. Korean American members of Congress include Reps. Young Kim, R-Calif., Michelle Steel, R-Calif., Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., and Andy Kim, D-N.J.

It is equally important to recognize the pivotal role played by the Former Members of Congress’ Congressional Study Group on Korea. This bipartisan initiative serves as a bridge between the legislative bodies of the U.S. and South Korea, fostering dialogue, understanding and collaboration on a range of issues.

Established by the Association of Former Members of Congress, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting bipartisanship and civic service education, the CSGK serves as a forum for in-depth discussions and analysis of issues pertinent to the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Its significance lies not only in its ability to bridge the gap between past and present lawmakers but also in its capacity to contribute meaningfully to diplomacy and economic matters.

At the heart of the CSGK’s mission is the promotion of a nuanced understanding of Korean affairs within the U.S. Congress. In an era where geopolitical intricacies demand informed decision-making, the group serves as a vital resource for lawmakers seeking to comprehend the complexities of the U.S.-South Korea relationship. By providing a platform for dialogue and collaboration, the CSGK facilitates a deeper appreciation of the shared values and strategic interests that bind these two nations.

One of the key points of the CSGK’s focus is the economic collaboration between the United States and South Korea. As the global economy continues to evolve, fostering robust economic ties becomes imperative for both nations. The CSGK, through its discussions and analyses, highlights the mutual benefits that arise from economic cooperation. By delving into the details of trade agreements, investment opportunities and business partnerships, the group reviews policies and their impact, strengthening the economic foundations of the bilateral relationship.

Each year, the Association of Former Members of Congress recognizes individuals and companies that have had a significant and positive impact on their communities and on the issues important to us all. We will congratulate Reps. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., and Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, as this year’s congressional honorees at the Statesmanship Awards Celebration on May 14.

CJ Group is proud to be this year’s corporate honoree in recognition of our role in strengthening the U.S.-ROK relationship. FMC noted CJ’s outstanding corporate citizenship and dedication to the U.S. economy. Started as a sugar and flour company in South Korea in 1953, CJ has grown to become an international lifestyle company with operations in food, entertainment, bio and logistics. The U.S. is CJ’s most important overseas market, with facilities in several states, more than 13,000 employees and an overall investment of $5 billion. We will continue to grow our U.S. footprint.

CJ is proud to play a part in the ongoing success story that is the U.S.-South Korea relationship.


Pious Jung is the co-CEO of CJ America and president of Content, Global Business for CJ ENM, the company’s entertainment and media affiliate, where he leads the development and distribution of content across genres and platforms. He can be reached by email.

Dr. Yunil Hwang is the co-CEO of CJ America and the executive director of Corporate R&D External Affairs at CJ Cheiljedang, where he leads the development of the global R&D structure to support sustainable growth. He can be reached by email.

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