Obama to Pay Respects to Ferry Disaster Victims

U.S. President Barack Obama will pay his respects to the victims of the ferry disaster off the south coast when he visits here on Friday and Saturday.

"As a father of two girls, Obama wanted to offer his deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the Sewol," a government official said Thursday.

A visit to the scene of the accident was ruled out considering how brief Obama's stay is and because of concerns that the visit could disrupt ongoing search efforts.

After arriving in Korea on Friday, Obama heads straight to Cheong Wa Dae for a brief welcoming ceremony followed by an hour-long meeting with President Park Geun-hye.

This is the U.S. president's first visit to Korea since Park's inauguration. The two leaders will have dinner at Cheong Wae Dae following a joint press conference.

Ju Chul-ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, said the two leaders will discuss the future of the Seoul-Washington alliance, the North Korean nuclear threat and other issues affecting the region.

He said the summit will serve as an opportunity to "confirm close cooperation in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat."

A ceremony will also be held to return lost royal and national seals of the Chosun Dynasty and the Korean Empire. The nine seals, which had been looted by U.S. soldiers from Deoksu Palace during the Korean War, were seized by U.S. customs authorities last year.

Obama then meets Korean and U.S. business executives on Saturday morning and then heads to Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. He is considering visits to the War Memorial in Yongsan and Gyeongbok Palace.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 25, 2014 09:30 KST