Reporting from Seoul — There were protests greeting President Obama's arrival in Seoul last night. Who was protesting, and why?
As opposed to the violent protests when George W. Bush visited Seoul in 2008, the rallies were staged quietly yesterday. Left-wing groups protested the re-dispatch of South Korean troops to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, right-wing organizations and North Korean human rights activists called for Obama to take swift action against the totalitarian regime in North Korea.
The U.S. and South Korea concluded a free-trade agreement in 2007, but it has yet to be ratified by Congress. Is any movement on the issue likely during this trip?
The Koreans would like to see Obama kick-start the ratification process, but the president is more likely to avoid dramatic moves because of hostility to parts of the deal from his own party. The agreement has been stalled in Congress for two years, primarily over concerns about the auto sector. South Korea exports far more vehicles to the U.S. than it imports from America. Meanwhile, South Korea has pressed ahead with other bilateral trade agreements with India and the European Union, raising the specter of U.S. businesses falling behind the competition in Asia.