Photo: Ron DeSantis (left) with Kim Dong-yeon. Credit: Executive Office of the Governor of Florida.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis visited South Korea from April 25 to 26 on a trade mission. On his first visit to South Korea, DeSantis met with exactly two South Korean dignitaries: Prime Minister Han Deok-su 한덕수 국무총리 and Gyeonggi-do Province Governor Kim Dong-yeon 김동연 경기도지사.
DeSantis’s meeting with Han was unsurprising, as the prime minister was the highest ranking government official of South Korea during President Yoon Suk-yeol’s 윤석열 대통령 state visit to the United States. But the Florida governor's singling out Kim for a meeting is somewhat unusual. DeSantis met with Kim at a trade partnership breakfast, as Gyeonggi-do Province and Florida are sister provinces/states. Seoul mayor O Se-hun 오세훈 서울 시장 reportedly learned of DeSantis's visit late, and attempted to meet with the Republican presidential hopeful but was unable to arrange a meeting.
Kim, of course, is no small beer: in addition to being the governor of South Korea’s most populous province (in which more than one-quarter of all South Koreans live), he is seen as one of the leaders in the race to be the next Democratic Party 민주당 presidential candidate. (See previous coverage, “Early Look at 2027 Presidential Election.”) Nevertheless, it is somewhat unusual for a governor to meet with so many foreign dignitaries.
In addition to DeSantis, ambassadors or acting ambassadors for the United Kingdom, Germany, Latvia, Canada, US, Australia, China and India all have ventured outside of Seoul to meet with Kim - sometimes twice, in the cases of the UK and Chinese ambassadors - since he took office in July 2022. Kim’s international experience has facilitated these meetings, as he was formerly a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University and policy advisor at the World Bank.