Politics

During official defense visit, South Korea President wears for the first time sunglasses received as gift from U.S. President Biden

The president of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol wore sunglasses offered by the United States President Joe Biden when he came to Seoul back in May. Mr Yoon was on an official visit of the defense industry as he plans to boost its exports.

President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol wearing Ray Bans offered as gift by United States President Joe Biden
The president of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol during an official visit on November 24, wearing sunglasses offered as gift by United States President Joe Biden | © South Korea President office

One may wonder what happens to the gifts country officials offer when they meet. During an official visit, the president of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol used the sunglasses offered by United States President Joe Biden.

For the end of the Defense Export Strategy Meeting, Mr Yoon on November 24 visited a military assembly plant of Korea Aerospace Industries and met with Korean army and defense industry leaders.

During the inspection of weapons and vehicles on a sunny day, a staff member came to bring him sunglasses. These sunglasses were the ones the United States President Joe Biden offered as a diplomatic gift when he visited South Korea in May, 11 days after Mr Yoon took office. The information was confirmed by the President’s Office, Korean news agency Yonhap reports.

The Ray-Bans are a signature of Mr Biden’s look who have been wearing them since college. But the president has also been offering these American aviator sunglasses to several other country leaders.

Mr Biden gave Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a pair of aviators during the same trip to Asia. He had already offered Ray-Bans to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2021 and even to Russian President Vladimir Putin back in June 2021.

It is the first time the Korean President wears the sunglasses at an official event. Mr Yoon seems to have appreciated the gifts received from Mr Biden. He had also received a desk sign reading “The Buck Stops Here” as a reference to the sign the former U.S. President Harry Truman had on his desk. Mr Yoon cited on television the phrase shortly after his victory. It means a president has to make decisions and take responsibility for them. The Korean president offered a traditional low desk.

Investing in South Korean defense industry exports

According to the Korean newspaper Money Today, an official from the presidential office said that the president wearing sunglasses offered as part of the U.S.-ROK (Republic of Korea) alliance during the tour showed the importance of the defense industry.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Yoon advocated for a stronger alliance with the United States and a tougher line on North Korea, while crediting past authoritarian rulers for quickly developing the economy after the Korean War.

Amid tensions with North Korea and difficult relations with its main trade partner China, the conservative president wants to invest in the defense industry and boosts its exports.

The defense industry is now the country’s future growth driver and the backbone of other industries of advanced technologies,” the Korean president, elected with a tight margin, said. He stressed out during his speech that defense cannot meet domestic demand only but needs to look into exports, highlighting that 2022 was the best year for Korean military exports.

Military exports in Korea were worth about 3 billion dollars annually until 2020, but increased to 7.25 billion dollars last year to reach a record high 17 billion dollars for 2022, according to Korean official figures. In July, South Korea signed a deal with Poland worth 14.5 billion dollars.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Mr Yoon in Seoul last week and showed interest in the country’s weapon systems as in 2019.

As countries around the world tend to increase their defense budget, President Yoon noted that the “defense industry’s exports not only enhance our national security but also contribute to the peace and stability of the global community and stronger solidarity with friendly nations.”

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