May 11, 2011 10:02
U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens plans to go on a one-week bicycle tour of the western coast of Korea at the end of this month, starting in Seoul and ending in Jindo, South Jeolla Province. Stephens will stop at the tomb of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, noted for defeating invading Japanese forces in the 16th century, in Asan, South Chungcheong Province as well as a U.S. military installation in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province to stress the importance of the Seoul-Washington alliance.
She will also visit a GM automobile plant in Gunsan and a nuclear power plant in Yeonggwang, South Jeolla Province to promote the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. A diplomatic source said she will stay mainly at small inns and speak with people in various regions.
This is Stephens' second cycling tour of Korea. The first, with a group of Korean university students to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War last year, began in Namhae, South Gyeongsang Province and ended in Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province. "As wonderful as the scenery was, the best part of the trip was the people. I look forward to continuing to experience Korea by bicycle, both with American and Korean friends," she wrote on her blog at the time.
The envoy's first stop this year is a UN memorial in Osan, south of Seoul that commemorates the first battle between U.S. troops and North Korean forces in July 1950. Stephens is also considering visiting the Yesan-gun Office of South Chungcheong Province, where she taught English when she was a Peace Corps volunteer.
Stephens, who marks the third year of her tour of duty this August, is apparently to remain until at least the end of this year. Early this year, Joseph Donovan, a deputy assistant secretary of state, was being considered to replace Stephens, but talk of her replacement seems to have died off. She is apparently considered by the White House and the State Department to have played an important role in strengthening ties with Korea. "The U.S. and Korea have entered a decisive period in terms of ratifying the bilateral FTA, so there will be no replacements at least until that process is completed," a diplomat speculated.
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