President Obama at Blue House

Subject: WH Travel Pool Report #10

At Blue House

POTUS, after spending an hour at his hotel, was back on the move shortly before 4 pm, traveling on winding roads back into the city center.

Again, crowds were light on the streets.

At 4:15, Obama arrived at Blue House, which has a vaguely blue-green roof but is otherwise grey.

After being formally welcomed by an honor guard in the front plaza, (which played the Star-Spangled Banner, among other pieces) Obama entered a cavernous foyer, accompanied by President Park Guen-hye.

After signing a guest book as she looked on, Obama and Park shook hands before a mural depicting insignia.

The two leaders then departed for their bilateral meeting, held in a vast room under three chandeliers.

President Obama spoke first:
“I would like to thank President park welcoming me here today.”

“I’m very mindful that my visit comes at a time of mourning for the people of this nation,” he continued.

“And I know that President Park and the South Korean government are are very focused in responding to the ferry,” he said.

“For now, I just want to express, on the part of the American people, condolences for the incredible loss that has taken place,” Obama said.

“As allies but also friends, we join you in mourning the missing, and especially the young people.”

“President Park, I though it would be appropriate and fitting today to honor the dead and missing if our delegation held a moment of silence,” he said.

The two delegations then bowed their heads.

After sitting down, Park spoke through a translator, thanking him for the moment of silence.

“The Korean people draw great strength from your kindness,” she said.

“Just as the American people were able to rally after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, so too am I sure the Korean people will pull together,” she added.

Obama said that South Korea is one of the strongest American allies and that the United States would redouble its defense of it.

Finally, Obama presented a flag to Park as gesture to the families of the victims. It was flown over the White House on the same day as the ferry sinking, the president said.

Background on the flag, per the WH:
On behalf of the American people, the President presented President Park and the people of the Republic of Korea an American flag that flew over the White House on April 16 — the day that so many lost their lives aboard the ferry Sewol. The flag reflects our deep condolences, our solidarity with the Korean people at this difficult time, and our great pride in calling the Republic of Korea an ally and a friend.

Mark Landler
NY Times