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Seoul, South Korea – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi concluded his two-day visit to Seoul on Thursday, but his non-in-person meeting with the president sparked controversy among South Koreans.
Pelosi is the first seated speaker visiting South Korea since Dennis Hastert visited Seoul in 2002. She met her counterpart, Kim Jin-pyo, the speaker of the National Assembly, and agreed to support the efforts of the two governments to achieve denuclearization and peace on the peninsula as part of a strong deterrent against North Korea.
However, public criticism has been flying at South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol – who skipped an in-person meeting with Pelosi due to his summer vacation in his country’s capital, Seoul.
Despite its official visit to Seoul, the South Korean presidential office gave several answers about the meeting with Pelosi.
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Initially, the president’s office told reporters that the meeting between Yoon and Pelosi was not arranged due to Yoon’s planned summer vacation. Then he suddenly said he was coordinating with Pelosi’s office to set up a meeting, but then canceled his announcement again, saying there was no coordination between the two offices.
Although Yoon remained at his home in Seoul, his office finally confirmed on Thursday that the two would have a phone call and not a face-to-face meeting. The call between the two lasted 40 minutes.
Earlier in the trip, she met with leaders from Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan before arriving in Seoul. She is also expected to have a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday.
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Choi Young-bum, the presidential senior secretary for public relations, said the decision not to have a meeting with Pelosi was made based on “the national interest”.
However, the official declined to answer further questions from reporters about what “national interest” referred to in this situation.
The controversy escalated when Pelosi’s delegation arrived at Osan Air Base on Wednesday, where a photo showed no Seoul officials welcoming him and the delegation there.
Choi said Pelosi’s counterpart, the Speaker of the National Assembly, was the one who should have been responsible for holding a welcoming ceremony. He also claimed Pelosi’s office declined a ceremony given the late arrival of his delegation on Wednesday.
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Pelosi’s office has yet to issue a statement on the controversies sparked by criticism directed at the South Korean president by many members of the public.