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Obama makes surprise appearance at swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. ambassador to Seoul

2014/10/25 09:25

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barak Obama made a surprise appearance at the swearing-in ceremony Friday of new U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert in a show of his closeness and friendship with the new envoy, officials said.

Obama showed up at the end of the ceremony at the State Department, South Korean Ambassador to Washington Ahn Ho-young said during his own reception for the new ambassador later in the day. Ahn quoted Obama as telling him, "Give Mark Lippert a lot of bulgogi."

   Bulgogi is a Korean dish of grilled beef, and Obama is known as a big fan of it.

Secretary of State John Kerry presided over the ceremony. Celebrating Lippert's swearing-in, Kerry also said, "This is the Republic of Korea Day," according to Ahn. The Republic of Korea is South Korea's official name.

Lippert is a long-time adviser to Obama and a close aide to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

He is also known for his expertise on Korea and broader regional security issues, having worked as assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs from 2011 to 2012. He also served as Hagel's chief of staff at the Pentagon.

At age 41, he is also the youngest U.S. ambassador to South Korea ever.

"The partnership between the United States and the Republic of Korea is one of the most important relationships we have in the world. Our two countries share deeply held values of free markets, democracy, respect for human rights, rule of law. We share common history of working together, including joining arms in combat to uphold these values and defend our security," Lippert said in his speech at the evening reception.

"I'm proud to say that the ties between our two countries have never been stronger," he said.

Also attending Friday's reception were Hagel, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, other U.S. government officials, and scholars and experts on Korea.

"I cannot think of an individual more qualified, more ready and more complete than Mark Lippert to go to this new assignment, an important country as has been noted, an important ally and an important friend and an important partnership, and do the things that he is going to do for our countries together," Hagel said.

"I couldn't be more proud of Mark Lippert," he added.

Lippert was nominated in early May to replace Sung Kim as the top U.S. envoy to Seoul, and the nomination was confirmed by the Senate last month. He is scheduled to depart for Seoul next week to take office as Washington's top diplomat to South Korea.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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