October 11th, 2011
03:37 PM ET
By Sr. State Dept. Producer Elise Labott
State visits for foreign leaders are meant to signify the importance the U.S. president places on the relationship with a particular country.
Such is the case for South Korea, whose president, Lee Myung-bak, arrives in Washington later this week for a state visit. Lee's arrival comes on the heels of a free trade agreement with Seoul being sent last week to Congress for final approval.
In addition to an Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama Thursday, Lee will be feted at a State Department luncheon on Wednesday hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a state dinner Thursday at the White House.
But it looks as if Obama's choice to be his new ambassador to Seoul won't be part of the festivities, due to a nail-biting political standoff over his confirmation which former diplomats warn could affect U.S. relations with a major ally and trading partner.
The administration's nominee to be ambassador, Sung Kim, was announced this summer. The choice of Kim, who would be the first American of Korean descent to hold the post, was hailed by Seoul as an opportunity to for the two countries strengthen relations.