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Korea’s 4,351st Anniversary of its National Foundation Day and the 70th anniversary of its Armed Forces Day

27 September 2018

Addressing guests at a reception in Pretoria Ambassador Jong Dae Park of Korea said about Korea's unprecedented success, "In the case of Korea which was one of the poorest countries on earth, there were four cornerstones of development that were essential for the successful transformation of the nation. They were land reform, empowerment of the people, revolution in education, and revolution in government. South Korea’s land reform has been hailed as one of the most successful cases of land reform in the world. Empowerment of the people was also crucial, and it was aimed at making people more confident, self-reliant, productive and collaborative; in other words, focusing on human capital and social capital."

Photo: Ambassador Jong Dae Park with Mr. Joy Rathebe, DDG of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation

Korea’s dramatic transformation in both economic and political terms is without precedent and Ambassador Park said that Korea is always ready to share their experiences with South Africa.

Welcoming address by H.E. Ambassador Jong Dae Park
National Day and Armed Forces Day Reception
27 September 2018

I would like to thank everyone here for making the time to join me today to celebrate our national event. We are gathered here to mark Korea’s 4,351st anniversary of its National Foundation Day and the 70th anniversary of its Armed Forces Day. This is my first national day reception that I am hosting in South Africa since I took office in February this year. It happens that Africa is my second home, and I feel very lucky to have finally come to South Africa during these momentous times. My first journey to Africa began in 1973 when I arrived in Uganda as a teenager. Later, as a diplomat, I was assigned to Côte d'Ivoire in 2001. I returned again to Uganda in 2011 and served as the Ambassador, and here I am now in South Africa for my final posting before my retirement.

South Korea and South Africa share many commonalities and enjoy close and meaningful ties. (No wonder both our countries’ names start with “South.”) Our two countries have undergone transformative political changes and today symbolize dynamic democracies. The leaders of our two nations, Korea’s President MOON Jae-In and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa have both emerged from similar circumstances and brought renewed hope to our respective nations with their positive vision and leadership.  

Korea’s dramatic transformation in both economic and political terms is without precedent; the manner in which it achieved rapid economic development and rapid political transformation is most unique. Today, Korea is only the 7th country in the world to have achieved the ‘30-50 club’ status, that is, having a nominal per capital GDP of over 30 thousand dollars with a population of over 50 million. South Africa is a rainbow nation in its own right. It is a G-20 country having a great potential for continuous growth and being blessed with so many diversities and endowments.

Celebrating the 100th anniversary since the birth of Madiba, a symposium was held in Seoul, Korea, on the 14th of this month to retrace the accomplishments of the three Nobel Laureates, the icons of peace, namely: KIM Dae-jung of South Korea, Willie Brandt of West Germany, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Nelson Mandela has visited Korea both as the President and former President, as he continues to inspire many Korean people to this day.

We fully support President Ramaphosa’s initiative to stimulate the economy through attracting new investments and other measures, and to eradicate poverty and unemployment, particularly that of the youth. We applaud various reforms undertaken by President Ramaphosa, especially the newly announced measures to ease visas for foreign tourists and businessmen, which the Korean business community has been yearning for a long time.

There are many challenges ahead but also huge opportunities exist for South Africa. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that South Africa joined this year is deemed important for the whole of Africa. There is a popular saying in Korea that “crisis is opportunity”. Adversities can be tackled where there is a will, and we are always ready to share our experiences with South Africa in this regard.

In the case of Korea which was one of the poorest countries on earth, there were four cornerstones of development that were essential for the successful transformation of the nation. They were land reform, empowerment of the people, revolution in education, and revolution in government. South Korea’s land reform has been hailed as one of the most successful cases of land reform in the world. Empowerment of the people was also crucial, and it was aimed at making people more confident, self-reliant, productive and collaborative; in other words, focusing on human capital and social capital.

Last year, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries, and we have made great progress in political, economic, social-educational and cultural fields. Exchanges of visits at various level and people-to-people contact continue this year. This year in particular, cultural exchanges have been very active. A cultural delegation of 70-members consisting of traditional musicians, dancers and a Taekwondo demonstration team visited South Africa in July. Meanwhile, the Cape Town Opera performed in Korea this month and South Africa’s traditional dance team is to take part in the international mask dance contest in Korea.

Turning to the security front, we extend our special thanks to the South African government for supporting the inter-Korean summits this year, and for its consistent call for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula for peace and security of the region and the world. South Africa also came to our aid upon a call from the UN to defend our freedom and democracy during the Korean War, which we are very grateful for and will always remember.

In terms of economic cooperation, two-way trade volumes between Korea and South Africa have been steadily increasing over the years, totaling over $3 billion dollars in 2017. South Africa remains Korea’s largest trading partner in Africa, while Korea is South Africa’s fourth largest trading partner in Asia. This is a very modest figure considering the potentials that our two countries have in the economic sector, and I believe it can be expanded much further.

With respect to development cooperation, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), together with the South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, has launched in July, the Saemaul Mindset (DEEP) Program for pilot projects in two villages in South African rural areas. This program is modeled after Korea’s Saemaul Undong (New Village Movement) that spearheaded rural-agricultural development based on the spirit of diligence, self-help, and cooperation.

In the education field, we have a very large number of South African English teachers, probably more than five thousand at any given time, working in South Korea. There are also Korean volunteer teachers dispatched from our Education Ministry to Gauteng to help pupils with their mathematics and science. I am also happy to share that Samsung Electronics launched a new engineering training centre in Midrand last month for skills transfer and training the youth. The Overseas Koreans Foundation and our embassy have been supporting Forest Town School with educational materials such as computers. And the list goes on.

Let me conclude by congratulating South Africa for winning a bid to once again become a UNSC non-permanent member, starting next year, and most of all, for the very successful debut of President Ramaphosa at the UNGA this week.

May I now invite you all to join me in a toast, to wish for the continued good health of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the prosperity of the South African people, and to the ever strengthening bond between the Republic of Korea and the Republic of South Africa.
Cheers! Thank you.

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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October 2018

 
 
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