South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday pledged to defend freedom and democracy alongside the United States for years to come during his address to Congress in Washington.
Speaking entirely in English and focusing much of the first part of his speech on the Korean War, Yoon said the alliance was formed to "defend Korea's freedom" but has now acquired global significance on par with its economic power.
"Together with the U.S., Korea will play the role as a 'compass for freedom.' It will safeguard and broaden the freedom of citizens of the world," the president said on the fourth day of a state visit marking the 70th anniversary of the alliance.
Yoon emphasized that ties between the two countries have rapidly expanded beyond political affairs. In addition to many South Korean companies creating jobs in the United States, he noted that social and cultural exchanges, especially among younger people, are increasing.
"Even if you did not know my name, you may know BTS and Blackpink," he quipped, referring to famous Korean pop music groups.
Yoon's speech came a day after he held talks with President Joe Biden at the White House, in which one of the major agreements was to beef up Washington's extended deterrence involving nuclear capabilities against North Korea.
In the first speech given by a South Korean leader to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in about a decade, Yoon also touched on Japan.
He said that along with close coordination between Seoul and Washington, it is necessary to "speed up" trilateral cooperation involving Tokyo "to counter increasing North Korean nuclear threats."
Citing North Korea's military provocations and human rights violations as well as Russia's war against Ukraine, he added, "Korea's experience shows us just how important it is for democracies to uphold solidarity. Korea will stand in solidarity with the free world."
As on Wednesday during his appearance with Biden, Yoon stressed that the long-standing alliance is one of "universal values" and stands for justice, peace and prosperity.
"We will build the world of tomorrow that opens endless opportunities for our future generations," he said in concluding remarks that drew applause from U.S. lawmakers. "I look forward to everyone being on board for our new journey together."