Park tells Obama they share ‘blessed’ names

By Korea Herald

Published : May 8, 2013 - 20:36
Updated : May 8, 2013 - 20:36

WASHINGTON ― Compliments and courteous acknowledgements were exchanged during the first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Park Geun-hye and Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

The two talked for around 30 minutes at the Oval Office as their aides listened on, followed by a luncheon that was extended by about 10 minutes.

Right before the luncheon, Obama suggested they take a short walk alongside the Rose Garden, and they did so for around 10 minutes without a translator, talking about their families, as rain drizzled on the U.S. capital, according to Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

Obama broke the ice when the summit talks began by congratulating Park on her landslide presidential win last December and telling her that she is admired by many from his administration. He expressed friendliness as well by shaking her hand with both of his, a gesture of respect in Korea.

Park in return told him at the beginning of their luncheon that she learned his name “Barack” in Swahili meant “blessed.” Explaining that “hye” of her name also meant “blessing,” she said they shared a lot of things starting with their names.

At the press conference held after, Obama appealed to Koreans by referring to the two countries’ 60th anniversary of their alliance as “hwangap” ― pronouncing it in quite credible Korean ― which refers to the special 60th birthday celebrated in Korea for health and longevity. He also said his daughters told him about the “Gangnam Style” craze sparked by Psy, inducing laughter from the audience and a smile from Park, who is a self-proclaimed fan.

While Park appeared a little tense at first, she eased up, showing more confidence and using hand gestures as she started answering reporters’ questions about North Korea.

After the press conference ended, Obama escorted out Park, who briefly stopped midway to acknowledge the American journalists.

The two presidents also exchanged gifts, the Foreign Ministry said. Park gave Obama a silver picture frame adorned with jade, and a Korean dinner set made with traditional lacquerware inlaid with mother-of-pearl and a Korean cookbook for First Lady Michelle Obama, who did not attend the events.

While staying at the Blair House in Washington, Park took time to see the guestbook signed by her late parents former President Park Chung-hee and first lady Yook Young-soo during their visit in 1965, the foreign minister said.

By Lee Joo-hee, Korea Herald correspondent
(jhl@heraldcorp.com)

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