The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation on Sunday presented its annual prestigious award to Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for their efforts to improve their countries’ relations, long plagued by historical issues.
The foundation honored Yoon and Kishida with the special International Profile in Courage Award during a ceremony at its library in Boston. Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Hyun-dong and Japanese Consulate-General Kotaro Suzuki received the awards on their behalf.
U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of the former U.S. president and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, praised the two leaders for “working across painful historical issues to bring their countries closer.”
“These two leaders have put aside the easy path and reached across differences despite strong domestic opposition and upcoming elections to form a relationship of trust,” she said. “Their example is one for all world leaders to emulate.”
In a video message, Yoon pledged to make “more efforts,” stressing that courage blooms on “utter sacrifice and dedication.
“I know that this award is a reminder of my solemn duty, a profound sense of responsibility, placed upon the Republic of Korea, the United States and Japan, to promote freedom and prosperity around the world by standing together in solidarity,” he said.
In his pretaped speech, Kishida pledged to work together with Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden for peace.
“We, political leaders, are vested with the responsibility to make our peoples’ ties the solid foundation of peace and to aspire for a tomorrow that is better than today, not only by words but also by taking action,” he said. “As the prime minister of Japan, I am determined to fulfill this responsibility, working together with President Biden and President Yoon.”
At the ceremony, the Profile in Courage Award was also presented to five female state Senators from South Carolina who formed a bipartisan coalition to filibuster a near-total abortion ban in their state.
The relations between Seoul and Tokyo began to thaw after the Yoon administration offered in March to resolve the issue of compensating Korean victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor, long a thorn in bilateral ties.
The foundation’s annual award is granted to politicians who have shown courageous leadership. Other major recipients include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and former U.S. President Barack Obama. (Yonhap)