[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 9, 1998]
[Page 930]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 930]]

Remarks at the State Dinner Honoring President Kim Dae-jung of
South Korea
June 9, 1998

    The President. Good evening. President Kim, Mrs. Kim, members of the Korean delegation, distinguished guests, 
Hillary and I welcome you to the White House.
    On our two trips to Korea, we experienced the great kindness of the 
Korean people. We hope you have experienced that same feeling from the 
American people.
    As you can see from looking around this room, the American people 
include more than 1 million Korean-Americans who make very strong 
contributions to the United States but never forget their brothers and 
sisters half a world away.
    Mr. President, I hope you consider America your second home. I 
recall very well the day in 1992 we first met on the steps of the City 
Hall in Los Angeles, where we also met with citizens who were starting 
to rebuild their community after intense racial strife.
    You spent much of your period of exile in our country, and you have 
many great friends here, some of whom are with us tonight. They have 
stood by you through times of trouble, and in turn, you have been a real 
inspiration to them.
    In one of the many letters to your family from your prison cell, you 
recalled an old adage: Even if the heavens were to crash down, there is 
a hole through which to rise up; and even if taken in a tiger's teeth, 
there is a way to survive.
    Mr. President, the story of your way is almost unbelievable: Raised 
on an island with no paved roads or electricity, you were captured by 
the North Koreans in the war and nearly executed; elected to the 
national assembly only days before the assembly was disbanded by a coup; 
denied the Presidency in 1971 after voter intimidation and fraud by the 
ruling party; injured when a 14-ton truck tried to ram your car; 
kidnapped, taken to sea, prepared for drowning by Government agents; 
sentenced to death again in 1981 after a 6-minute trial. Through it all, 
you never lost hope that democracy and human rights could rise up in 
your beloved land.
    Now you are at the center of that democracy working to make the 
dreams of your people a reality. You are an inspiration, not only to 
your fellow Koreans but to people all around the world who seek freedom 
and a better life. Tonight we celebrate your triumphs and the triumph of 
democracy in so many nations that once were ruled by the iron hand of 
dictatorship. We also remember with gratitude those who bravely 
struggled for freedom but gave their lives before their dreams were 
realized. And we honor those around the world who still struggle to free 
their countries from tyranny. Their struggles and yours, Mr. President, 
remind us that we must never take freedom for granted.
    As Abraham Lincoln, whose life and words you have studied, once 
said, ``The fight must go on. The cause of liberty must not be 
surrendered at the end of one, or even 100 defeats.'' Mr. President, you 
remind us that, at the end of all the defeats and all the trials, there 
is victory for the human spirit.
    Therefore, it is a great honor for me to ask all of you to join in a 
toast to President Kim, Mrs. Kim, the people of 
the Republic of Korea, the deep friendship between our nations, and the 
brilliant future for Korea that you will build.

[At this point, a toast was offered, and President Kim made brief 

    The President. Mr. President, thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Lee Hee-ho, wife of President Kim. 
The transcript made available by the Office of the Press Secretary also 
included the remarks of President Kim.