The Presidential Office Received a Report on the IRA Before the President's Phone Call with Speaker Pelosi

Yu Sul-hee, Kim-Yun Na-yeong 2022. 9. 30. 13:27
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Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi speaks in a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo at the National Assembly on the morning of August 4. National Assembly press photographers

On Thursday, it was confirmed that the South Korean Embassy in the United States had sent a report on key details of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) just before President Yoon Suk-yeol spoke on the phone with Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on August 4 when she was visiting South Korea. The phone call took place eight days after the Inflation Reduction Act was released, which was before the U.S. Congress had passed the bill. The Office of the President announced, “At the time of her (Speaker Pelosi) visit, discussions on the IRA had just begun in the Senate, so it was difficult to discuss details with the U.S.”

According to the Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker Cho Jeong-sik, a member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, the South Korean Embassy in Washington sent a report on the key issues of the IRA to the Office of the President and the foreign, trade and finance ministries on the morning of August 4. The report, which was classified as “confidential class-3,” mentioned details such as incentives for automobiles that undergo the final assembly in North America.

At the time, Speaker Pelosi was in South Korea. She arrived at the U.S. Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi-do at 9:26 p.m. August 3, and met with Kim Jin-pyo, speaker of the National Assembly the next morning.

President Yoon, who was on vacation at the time, went to the theater and had dinner with the actors on the night of August 3. The next morning, the Office of the President announced, “President Yoon is scheduled to speak with Speaker Pelosi over the phone this afternoon.” And around 2:30 p.m. that day, Yoon spoke with Pelosi for forty minutes over the phone. In a press briefing shortly after the phone call, Kim Tae-hyo, first assistant director of national security said, “The two discussed issues including foreign affairs, national defense, technology cooperation, issues concerning young people and women, and climate change in quite detail for a considerable time.”

It has yet to be confirmed whether President Yoon was aware of the South Korean Embassy’s report at the time. News on the report is expected to trigger questions on the appropriateness of the presidential office’s response when Congress passed the IRA. The bill was disclosed to the public on July 27 (hereonafter local time) and was passed by the Senate on August 7 and by the House of Representatives on August 12. U.S. President Joe Biden signed the bill on August 16, putting it into effect.

This day, the Office of the President released a statement and said, “We inform you that the accusations that our government did not respond promptly and that we missed the golden opportunity to convey our concerns are absolutely not true.” They also said, “When it comes to the Inflation Reduction Act, our government is taking action from all angles by operating all foreign and trade channels available at the working and senior levels,” and added, “U.S. Vice President Harris, who will arrive in Korea this day, also said that the U.S. would tend to measures to ease South Korea’s concerns in the process of enforcing the bill in response to President Yoon Suk-yeol’s worries about the IRA.”

The Office of the President continued and said, “The government is actively operating a separate consultative body to solely discuss the IRA with the U.S. administration,” and explained, “We cannot verify the details of the phone conversation with Speaker Pelosi due to diplomatic conventions, but at the time of her visit, the U.S. Senate had just begun discussing the bill, so it was difficult to discuss details with the U.S.”

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