South Korean President Welcomed to Chicago - NBC Chicago
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South Korean President Welcomed to Chicago



    President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of South Korea made his first visit to Chicago on Friday night in an effort to strengthen ties between the southeast Asian country and the state.

    His visit to Chicago comes after an official state visit at The White House to discuss a wide range of economic and security issues. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former First Lady Maggie Daley greeted him at O'Hare International Airport.

    "It is wonderful being here in Chicago,'' Lee said. "Korea and Chicago go back many years. In 1893, Korea took part in the World Fair. It was the first time that Korea went overseas officially."

    In his remarks, Emanuel called Chicago a "city of immigrants" and said the Windy City is home to the third-larges Korean community in the entire United States.

    "Over the years, we have forged strong business, economic and personal relationships with our Korean friends," he said.

    About 150 guests were invited to the welcome dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center, including Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin and and executives from United Airlines and Caterpillar Inc.

    Chefs included Graham Elliot, Paul Kahan from Blackbird and Katrina Markoff from Vosges Haut Chocolat, and entertainment was provided by R&B star Heather Headley and the Chicago Children's Choir.

    Lee's arrival on Thursday in Washington came a day after Congress ratified a trade pact between the two countries that was the biggest such deal for the U.S. since the North American Free

    Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1994. He was feted at a White House state dinner, then accompanied President Barack Obama to a General Motors plant in Michigan on Friday before heading to Chicago.

    The South Korean president's visit to Chicago is as important as one earlier this year by Chinese President Hu Jintao, when retired Mayor Richard Daley was at the city's helm, said John Roberson, a Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce official.

    South Korea already imports corn and soybeans from Illinois farms, and the southeast Asian country is hoping to forge stronger economic ties to the state, said Chul Huh, the South Korean consul general in Chicago.

    Lee was scheduled to meet with about 300 representatives of the Chicago's Korean-American community before he leaves on Saturday, Huh said.

    Chicago's former first lady, Maggie Daley, was among those invited to welcome South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to Chicago.