Address by President Trump to the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, Pool)

Office of the Press Secretary
November 8, 2017


Seoul, Republic of Korea

[As prepared for delivery]

Speaker Chung, distinguished members of this Assembly, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for the extraordinary privilege to speak in this great chamber, and to address your people on behalf of the people of the United States.

In our short time in your country, Melania and I have been awed by its ancient and modern wonders, and we are deeply moved by the warmth of your welcome.

Last night, President and Mrs. Moon showed us incredible hospitality in a beautiful reception at the Blue House. We had productive discussions on increasing military cooperation, and improving the trade relationship between our nations on the principle of fairness and reciprocity.

Through this entire visit, it has been both our pleasure and our honor to celebrate the long friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea.

The alliance between our nations was forged in the crucible of war and strengthened by the trials of history. From the Inchon landings to Pork Chop Hill, American and South Korean soldiers fought together, sacrificed together, and triumphed together.

Almost 67 years ago, in the spring of 1951, they recaptured what remained of this city where we are gathered today. It was the second time in a year that our combined forces took on steep casualties to retake this capital from the Communists.

Over the next weeks and months, the men soldiered through steep mountains and bloody battles. Driven back at times, they willed their way north, to form the line that today divides the oppressed and the free.

And there, American and South Korean troops have remained, together holding that line for nearly seven decades.

By the time the Armistice was signed in 1953, more than 36,000 Americans had died in the Korean War, with more than 100,000 others wounded. They are heroes, and we honor them.  We also honor and remember the terrible price the people of your country paid for their freedom. You lost hundreds of thousands of brave soldiers and innocent civilians in that gruesome war.

Much of this great city of Seoul was reduced to rubble. Large portions of the country were scarred by war. The economy of this nation was demolished.

But as you know, over the next two generations, something miraculous happened on the Southern half of this peninsula. Family by family, city by city, the people of South Korea built this country into what it is today: one of the great nations of the world. In less than one lifetime, South Korea climbed from total devastation, to among the wealthiest nations on earth.

Today, your economy is more than 350 times larger than what it was in 1960. Trade increased by a multiple of nearly 1,900. Life expectancy rose from just 53 years to more than 82 years today.

This economic transformation was linked to a political one. The proud, sovereign and independent people of your nation demanded the right to govern themselves. You secured free parliamentary elections in 1988—the same year you hosted your first Olympics. Soon after, you elected your first civilian president in more than three decades. And when the Republic you won faced financial crisis, you lined up by the millions to give your most prized possessions—your wedding rings, heirlooms, and gold “luck keys”—to restore the promise of a better future for your children.

Your wealth is measured in more than money—it is measured in achievements of the mind and spirit. Over the last several decades, your scientists and engineers have pushed the boundaries of technology, pioneered medical treatments and emerged as leaders in unlocking the mysteries of the universe.

Korean authors pen roughly 40,000 books a year.

Korean musicians fill concert halls around the world. Young Korean students graduate from college at the highest rates of any country.

And Korean golfers are some of the best on earth.

Here in Seoul, architectural wonders like the Sixty-Three Building and the Lotte [LOW-TAY] World Tower grace the sky and house the workers of many growing industries.

Your citizens now help to feed the hungry, fight terrorism, and solve problems all over the world—and in a few months, you will HOST the world for the 23rd Olympic Winter Games.

The Korean miracle extends exactly as far as the armies of free nations advanced in 1953—24 miles to our North. There, it stops. The flourishing ends, and the prison state of North Korea begins.

Workers in North Korea work grueling hours in unbearable conditions for almost no pay. Recently, the entire working population was ordered to work for 70 days straight, or else pay for a day of rest.

Families live in homes without plumbing and fewer than half have electricity.

Parents bribe teachers in hopes of saving their sons and daughters from forced labor.

More than a million North Koreans died of famine in the 1990s, and more continue to die of hunger.

Among children under the age of five, nearly thirty percent are afflicted by stunted growth due to malnutrition. And yet, in 2012 and 2013, the regime spent an estimated 200 million dollars, or almost half the money that it allocated to improve living standards for its people, to instead build even more monuments, towers, and statues to glorify dictators.

What remains of the meager harvest of the North Korean economy is distributed according to perceived loyalty to a twisted regime. Far from valuing its people as equal citizens, this cruel dictatorship measures them, scores them, and ranks them based on the most arbitrary indications of their allegiance to the state. Those who score highest in loyalty may live in the capital city. Those who score lowest starve first. A small infraction by one citizen, such as accidently staining a picture of the tyrant printed in a discarded newspaper, can wreck the social credit rank of his entire family for decades.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans suffer in gulags, toiling in forced labor, and enduring torture, starvation, rape, and murder.

In one known instance, a 9-year-old boy was imprisoned for 10 years because his grandfather was accused of treason.

In another, a student was beaten in school for forgetting a single detail about the life of Kim Jong Un.

Soldiers have kidnapped foreigners and forced them to work as language tutors for North Korean spies.

In the part of Korea that was a stronghold of Christianity before the war, Christians and other people of faith who are found praying or holding a religious book are now detained, tortured, and even executed.

North Korean women are forced to abort babies that are considered ethnically inferior—and if these babies are born, the newborns are murdered.

One woman’s baby, born to a Chinese father, was taken away in a bucket—the guards said it did not “deserve to live because it [was] impure.”

The horror of life in North Korea is so complete that citizens pay bribes to government officials to have themselves exported abroad as slaves. To attempt to flee is a crime punishable by death. One person who escaped remarked: “When I think about it now, I was not a human being. I was more like an animal. Only after leaving North Korea did I realize what life was supposed to be.”

And so, on this peninsula we have watched the results of a tragic experiment, in a laboratory of history. It is a tale of one people, and two Koreas. One Korea in which the people took control of their lives and their country—and chose a future of freedom and justice, of civilization and achievement. And another Korea, in which corrupt leaders imprisoned their people under the banner of tyranny, fascism and oppression.

The results of this experiment are in, and they are conclusive.

When the Korean War began in 1950, the two Koreas were approximately equal in GDP per capita.

But by the 1990s, South Korea’s wealth had surpassed the North by more than 10 times.

And today, the South’s economy is over forty times larger.

Considering the misery they have wrought, it is no surprise that the North Korean dictatorship has been forced to take increasingly desperate measures to prevent its people from understanding this brutal contrast.

Because the regime fears the truth above all else, it forbids virtually all contact with the outside world. Not just my speech today, but even the most commonplace facts of South Korean life—are forbidden knowledge to the North Korean people. Western and South Korean music is banned. Possession of foreign media is a crime punishable by death. Citizens spy on fellow citizens, their homes are subject to search at any time, and their every action is subject to surveillance. In place of a vibrant society, the people of North Korea are bombarded by state propaganda practically every waking hour of every day.

North Korea is a country ruled as a cult.  At the center of this military cult is a deranged belief in the Leader’s destiny to rule as parent protector over a conquered Korean Peninsula and an enslaved Korean people.

The MORE SUCCESSFUL South Korea becomes, the more DECISIVELY you discredit the dark fantasy at the heart of the Kim regime.

In this way, the VERY EXISTENCE of a thriving South Korean Republic THREATENS the VERY SURVIVAL of the North Korean dictatorship.

This city and this Assembly are living proof that a free and independent Korea not only CAN, but DOES stand STRONG, SOVEREIGN, and PROUD among the nations of the world.

Here, the STRENGTH of the nation does not come from the false glory of a miserable tyrant—it comes from the true glory of a strong and great PEOPLE—THE PEOPLE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA. A Korean people who are free to live, to flourish, to worship, to love, to build, and to grow—ON THEIR OWN.

In this Republic, the people have done what no dictator ever could— you took RESPONSIBILITY for yourselves and OWNERSHIP of your future.  You had a dream—a KOREAN DREAM—and you built that dream into reality.

In so doing, you performed the MIRACLE on the Hahn that we see all around us, from the stunning skyline of Seoul to the plains and peaks of this beautiful landscape. You have done it FREELY, you have done it HAPPILY and you have done it in your OWN BEAUTIFUL WAY.

THIS REALITY—this wonderful place—YOUR SUCCESS—is the greatest cause of anxiety, alarm, and even panic to the North Korean regime. That is why the Kim Regime seeks conflict abroad—to distract from total failure at home.

Since the so-called Armistice, there have been hundreds of North Korean attacks on Americans and South Koreans.  These attacks have included the capture and torture of the brave American sailors of the USS Pueblo, repeated assaults on American helicopters, and the 1969 downing of a U.S. surveillance plane that killed thirty-one American servicemen.  The regime has made numerous lethal incursions in South Korea, attempted to assassinate senior leaders, and attacked South Korean ships.

All the while, the regime has pursued nuclear weapons with the deluded hope that it could blackmail its way to its ultimate objective: subjugating all of Korea under its own corrupt rule.

The North Korean regime has pursued its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in defiance of every assurance, agreement, and commitment it has made to the United States and our allies. After promising to freeze its plutonium program in 1994, it reaped the benefits of the deal and continued its illicit nuclear activities anyway. In 2005, after years of diplomacy, the dictatorship agreed to ultimately abandon its nuclear programs and return to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation—but it never did, and worse, it tested the very weapons it negotiated to give up. In 2009, the United States gave negotiations yet another chance—and offered North Korea the open hand of engagement. The regime responded by sinking a South Korean Navy ship, killing 46 Korean sailors. To this day, it continues to launch missiles over the sovereign territory of its neighbors, test nuclear devices, and develop ICBMs to threaten American cities.

The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness.  This would be a fatal miscalculation.

Today, I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for ALL civilized nations, when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us. AND DO NOT TRY US.

We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty.

We did not choose to draw HERE, on this peninsula, the thin line of civilization that runs around the world, and down through time. But here it was drawn, and here it remains. It is the line between peace and war, between decency and depravity, between law and tyranny, between hope and despair. It is a line that has been drawn many times, in many places throughout history. To hold that line is a choice free nations have always had to make. We have learned together the high cost of weakness, and the high stakes of its defense.

America’s men and women in uniform have given their lives in the fight  against Nazism, Imperialism, Communism and Terrorism.

America does not seek conflict or confrontation. But we will NEVER run from it.  History is filled with discarded regimes that have foolishly tested America’s resolve.

Anyone who doubts the strength or determination of the United States should look to our past, and doubt no longer. We will not permit America or our allies to be blackmailed or attacked. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated.

And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here, on this ground we fought and died to secure.

That is why I have come here, to the heart of a free and flourishing Korea, with a message for the peace-loving nations of the world: THE TIME FOR EXCUSES IS OVER. Now is the time for STRENGTH.  If we want peace, we must STAND STRONG.

The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens the world with nuclear devastation.

All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea—to deny it any form of support, supply, or acceptance.  We call on every nation, including China and Russia, to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology.

It is our RESPONSIBILITY and our DUTY to confront this danger TOGETHER—because the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows, and the fewer the options become.  And to those nations that choose to ignore this threat or, worse still, to enable it, the weight of this crisis is on YOUR CONSCIENCE.

I have come here, to this Peninsula, to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean Dictatorship: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer—they are putting your regime in GRAVE DANGER.  Every step you take down this dark path, increases the peril you face.

North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves. Yet, despite every crime you have committed against God and man, we are ready to offer you a path to a better future. It begins with an end to the aggression of your regime, a stop to your development of ballistic missiles, and complete, verifiable, and TOTAL de-nuclearization.

A God’s eye view of this peninsula shows a nation of dazzling light in the south and a mass of impenetrable darkness in the North. We seek a future of LIGHT, prosperity, and peace. But we are ONLY prepared to discuss this brighter path for North Korea if its leaders CEASE their provocations and dismantle their nuclear program.

The sinister regime of North Korea is right about only one thing: the Korean people do have a glorious destiny.  But they could not be more wrong about what it looks like.  The destiny of the Korean people is NOT to SUFFER in the BONDAGE OF OPPRESSION, but to THRIVE in the GLORY OF FREEDOM.

What South Koreans have achieved on this peninsula is more than a victory for your nation–it is a victory for EVERY nation that believes in the human spirit.  And it is our hope that someday soon, all your brothers and sisters in the North can enjoy the fullness of life intended by God.

Your Republic shows us all what is possible. In just a few decades, with only the hard work, courage, and talents of your people, you turned this war-torn land into a nation blessed with wealth, rich in culture, and deep in spirit. You built a HOME where all families can flourish and where all children can shine.

This Korea stands strong and tall among the great community of INDEPENDENT, CONFIDENT, and PEACE-LOVING NATIONS. We are nations that respect our citizens, cherish our liberty, treasure our sovereignty, and control our own destiny. We affirm the dignity of every person and embrace the full potential of every soul. And we are ALWAYS prepared to defend the vital interests of our people against the cruel ambitions of tyrants.

Together, we dream of a Korea that is FREE, a peninsula that is safe, and families that are REUNITED ONCE AGAIN.  We dream of highways connecting North and South, of cousins embracing cousins, and this nuclear nightmare replaced with the beautiful promise of peace.

UNTIL that day comes, we stand STRONG AND ALERT– our eyes FIXED to the NORTH—and our HEARTS praying for the day when ALL KOREANS can LIVE IN FREEDOM.

Thank you, God Bless You, God Bless the Korean People, and God Bless the United States of America.