President Yoon Suk Yeol has proposed a new initiative to spur exchanges between young scientists from member nations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in a bid to promote regional growth and combat complex global challenges, according to Yoon's office on Thursday.
Yoon suggested what is tentatively dubbed the "Youth Scientist Exchange Initiative," aimed at offering visa waivers to those who hold science-related academic degrees within the APEC region and allowing them to save time at immigration checkpoints in APEC member countries.
Yoon said he was inspired by the concept of the APEC Business Travel Card made to facilitate short-term business travel within the APEC region.
"Riding on the success of the APEC Business Travel Card, South Korea hereby proposes the 'Youth Scientist Exchange Initiative' within the region to ensure free travel in the APEC region (of young people) who hold an academic degree in the field of science and are dedicated to research and development," Yoon said in his keynote speech at the APEC CEO Summit held in San Francisco on Wednesday.
The move is aimed at broadening the scope of people-to-people exchanges among the younger generation involving South Korea and some APEC member countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"The APEC region is very dynamic, with people 24 or under making up one-third of the region's entire population," Yoon said.
"To sustain the connectivity of APEC member countries for the next generation, people-to-people exchanges between the younger generations (of the APEC member countries) are crucial," Yoon added.
Yoon urged APEC members to make supply chain resilience a top priority, calling it the "foundation of a multilateral trade system." He also called on members to narrow the digital gap between member countries, saying Korea is capable of playing a lead role in setting the standard for trade in the digital era.
The proposals came in the face of geopolitical tensions largely stemming from regional conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, according to Kim Eun-hye, senior presidential secretary for press affairs.
"Yoon is to highlight the need to enhance the regional supply chain and establish supply chain resilience as its disruption poses a threat to Asia-Pacific countries," Kim noted in a statement upon Yoon's arrival in the US.
"In the face of the complex crises the world's economy is facing ... Yoon will lay out concrete measures for APEC members to preemptively address the crises, so the world's economy regains vitality and achieves sustainable growth," Kim said.
On the margins of the forum, Yoon met Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook in a closed-door meeting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday -- Yoon's first-ever meeting with Cook.
The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Park Jin; Yoon's secretaries, including Choi Sang-mok, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs; Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives; and Elizabeth Hernandez, head of Apple's government affairs, among others.
Choi reportedly said that Cook during the meeting revealed his father was a veteran of the Korean War and South Korea thereby holds significance to him. Cook also pledged to continue cooperation and investment to enable Korean firms' growth, in line with the $100 million in Apple's deals with Korean component firms over the past five years, according to Choi.
Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee also met with Korean Americans for their first engagement in San Francisco on Wednesday morning.
In front of some 150 participants at around 12 p.m., Yoon underscored the role of overseas Koreans living in the US in fostering the alliance of Seoul and Washington, which marked its 70th anniversary this year.
"San Francisco has served as the starting point of Korean immigrants' presence in the US mainland, holding significance in the history of Korean immigrants in the US," Yoon said during his speech, bringing up the history of Korean immigration to the US from the late 19th century.
Attending the conference were David Park, cofounder of machine learning-based advertising solutions venture firm Moloco; Philip Hwang, chair of TeleVideo; David Lee, cofounder of Ceeya and UX group leader at the nonprofit Bay Area K-Group; and San Francisco-based chef Corey Lee, among others.
"Now, more and more overseas Koreans excel (over) competitors (in San Francisco's) Silicon Valley in terms of information technology and cutting-edge technology. Your activities are of great help not only in promoting the rights and interests of Koreans in the United States, but also in helping our country's high-tech companies enter the American market," Yoon said.
Later on Wednesday, Yoon made an appearance at a forum specifically with young overseas Koreans, as well as at the reception for APEC leaders hosted by US President Joe Biden.
During the rest of his trip in San Francisco, Yoon is expected to hold closed-door bilateral talks with heads of state, although the details of whom Yoon will meet have not been officially disclosed.
According to Kyodo News, Yoon is set to hold a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in San Francisco on Thursday. They last met on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in India in September. Yoon and Kishida are also scheduled to hold a joint conference on the challenges and future of science and technology at Stanford University on Friday, Yoon's office earlier confirmed.