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South Korea president to visit Mass., speak at Kennedy School

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is due to visit Massachusetts on April 28, two days after President Biden will receive him for a state dinner at the White House.Im Hun-jung/Associated Press

South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol will reportedly hit Massachusetts on his US tour next week, emphasizing the biotech and digital sectors with stops in the Cambridge area and a speech about “challenges to freedom.”

The Republic of Korea leader’s Bay State plans were announced by a senior aide Wednesday, according to KBS World, the Korean Broadcasting System’s international outlet.

Yoon had already planned to visit Washington, D.C., where President Biden will welcome him for a state dinner on April 26.

His trip to the Boston area is slated to feature a speech on April 28 at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where Yoon will focus on “the challenges to freedom and the responses to them,” according to the school’s Institute of Politics.


Yoon is also set to participate in a moderated discussion with professor emeritus Joseph Nye, a former assistant defense secretary and former chair of the National Intelligence Council. He will take audience questions as well, an event invitation said.

A spokesperson for the South Korean Consulate told the News Service that the president’s plans were considered “confidential,” though KBS World cited the country’s senior presidential secretary for economic affairs in announcing some other Bay State stops.

A visit to MIT is expected to focus on digital and biotech research, and Yoon is also scheduled to participate in an economic roundtable featuring representatives of businesses and universities, the Korean news network said.

Yoon said in February that he was keen to grow the biotech industry in South Korea to be comparable to the “Boston cluster,” The Korea Times reported.

The tour also comes just a couple weeks after the arrest of a Massachusetts Air National Guard member, Jack Teixeira, for allegedly stealing and disseminating military secrets from Joint Base Cape Cod.

The leak included a document that reportedly contained the contents of a conversation between South Korean officials discussing military aid to Ukraine. South Korea’s government subsequently said the leaks featured “fabricated” information.


Defense officials from both nations’ governments met in Washington for their 22nd Integrated Defense Dialogue, which they said “strengthened the US-ROK combined defense posture,” on April 11 and 12 last week, a day before Teixeira’s arrest in Massachusetts.

The defense officials added in their joint statement that next week’s summit, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the US-South Korea alliance, “will be a significant step that propels the Alliance toward an even more global and comprehensive strategic Alliance.”

The White House reception in Washington will be Biden’s second state dinner since taking office.

A spokeswoman for Governor Maura Healey declined to comment on whether Yoon’s US tour could also mark Healey’s second official head-of-state reception at the State House. The governor hosted Cape Verde President José Maria Neves April 3.

Similar to Healey, a former attorney general, Yoon is a former prosecutor general of South Korea.