U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have both praised Korea as a model of Western support for democracy.
In a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Obama, urging Iran to halt its nuclear program, cited Korea among countries that have prospered by choosing not to develop nuclear weapons.
"Peace and progress come to those who make the right choices," Obama said. "From Brazil to South Africa; from Turkey to South Korea; from India to Indonesia; people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations."
In a speech delivered at former president Bill Clinton's Global Initiative, Romney said Washington's foreign aid programs should not be temporary stop-gap measures, but should stimulate the creation of free markets there. "Just think of North and South Korea. I became convinced that the crucial difference between these countries wasn't geography. I noticed the most successful countries shared something in common. They were the freest," Romney said.
Meanwhile, a majority of Korean Americans apparently support Obama. In a poll of Asian voters by the National Asian American Survey, 49 percent of Korean Americans supported Obama, while a mere 20 percent backed Romney.
Overall 43 percent of Asian Americans supported Obama and 24 percent backed Romney. The NAAS said a larger proportion of Asian Americans live in the swing states, so their votes could determine the winner.