WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Press kept out in S. Korea

March 25, 2012 - 8:47 AM
Obama Missing Press

White House Senior Press Lead Jesse Lewin, left, and White House Press Lead, Jeff Tiller, center, use their cell phones after the main entrance to Blue House is block by South Korean security personnel during U.S. President Barack Obama's scheduled visit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March, 25, 2012. Members of the U.S. press corps traveling in Obama's motorcade were denied entrance to the Blue House. The messy scene resulted in their missing Obama's meeting with South Korean President Lee. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — This is South Korea, right? The democracy with a free press and a close alliance with the United States?

When President Barack Obama arrived at the presidential palace in Seoul Sunday, he was missing his constant traveling companions: members of the U.S. press corps traveling in Obama's motorcade.

In an embarrassing bilateral blockade, members of the media were denied entrance to the Blue House. The messy scene resulted in their missing Obama's meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

At first, the media were held inside an entrance to the building as security scrambled to lock the doors around them. When that didn't work, they walked up a street and were met by security guards brandishing batons.

No reason for the mix-up was ever provided.

The press eventually got in, and good thing — hard to have a press conference without reporters around.

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Obama and U.S. troops stationed in South Korea exchanged touches of home during the president's visit to Camp Bonifas, just outside the Demilitarized Zone at the border between North and South Korea.

Obama thanked the soldiers for presenting him with a "spiffy" black jacket to mark the occasion. "Whoever arranged to make sure that it fit — I'm sure it wasn't the General — I appreciate it," Obama said to laughter.

In exchange, the basketball-obsessed president played the role of sportscaster, giving the soldiers an update on the unfolding NCAA basketball tournament.

"For those of you guys who missed the ball games — Florida got beat by Louisville, and Ohio State just beat Syracuse," Obama said. "So I don't know how your brackets are doing."