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Celebrating the National Day of the Republic of Korea

Ambassador Yeon Ho Choi and Mrs Youngja Shim hosted a reception to celebrate the National Day and Armed Forces Day of the Republic of Korea. They are pictured with Ms Dipuo Peters, Minister of Transport for South Africa. Addressing guests Ambassador Yeon Ho Choi said that he noticed more similarities than differences between South Africa and Korea. "I can see the power and dynamic energy shared by the two countries. I can also see the future of our two countries, with a strategic partnership in various fields," he said.





2 OCTOBER 2015

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Your Excellency Elizabeth Dipuo Peters, Minister of Transport, our guest speaker and chief representative of the South African government,  Her Excellency Hendrietta Bogopane Zulu Honourable, Deputy Minister of Social Development,  Ambassador Bene M’Poko, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Beniamino Salacakau, Dean of the Asian Group, Her Excellency Gwendoline Lindiwe Mahlangu Nkabinde, Former Minister of Public Works.  

Ambassadors and High Commissioners, members of the diplomatic corps, honourable Korean War Veterans and their families, members of the military attaché and advisor corps, distinguished guests, my dear Korean compatriots, ladies and gentlemen.  

To every one of you, I would like to express my sincere thanks for joining me today to celebrate the National Foundation Day and Armed Forces Day of the Republic of Korea.

I am very honoured to host my first national day reception here in the Republic of South Africa, the beautiful “Rainbow Nation” and a country of dynamic energy.    

I came to this country last December. For several months since my arrival everything seemed very different from my home country. I departed from Seoul in the wintertime, wearing a heavy coat and sweater, while South Africans were sweating in the summer heat and wearing shorts. I had an experience driving my car on the right-hand side of the road. I always look to the left when I should be looking to the right. Even the fairways of South African golf courses are much longer than those in Korea, frustrating me greatly.  

However, since I’ve become more familiar with the local driving conditions, I’ve noticed more similarities than differences between South Africa and Korea. I can see the power and dynamic energy shared by the two countries. I can also see the future of our two countries, with a strategic partnership in various fields.   

Today we heard the national anthems of our two countries sung by young students with different looking but beautiful faces. I have attended so many official ceremonies in this country that I am now proudly able to sing the South African national anthem, composed of 5 languages. “Thina Lusapho Lwayo”. Now I would like to quote this line’s English translation, “we are the family of it”. Every time I sing South Africa’s national anthem, I feel that Korea and South Africa are “Thina Lusapho Lwayo”. You may also be amazed to find that our two countries have very similar words in their national anthems, saying “Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso” which translates into “Lord bless our nation, save our nation”. And it also contains the words, “saying from the blue of our skies, from the depth of our sea, over everlasting mountains.”

Besides this, our two nations also have other similarities. Both our countries share very precious traditional values such as Ubuntu - a spirit of sharing and togetherness. In Korea, it’s called “Doo Rae”. Through this spirit, both countries can enhance our bilateral relations to another dimension. Both our countries have also risen from great hardships. Just 21 years ago, South Africa emerged from the Apartheid era and its struggle for freedom. Korea also experienced colonization and a bitter civil war which almost decimated our whole country. Both our countries eventually gained their freedom and independence and are now constantly striving for further development and the betterment of their peoples.

South Africa is a rising star and leading country in Africa as a member of the prestigious BRICS group of countries as well as being a member of the G20. Korea, as one of the leading Asian countries, has attained remarkable economic and democratic success over a few decades, amidst the ashes of war and the ordeal of a divided nation. Based on this success, my government strongly proposes the Northeast Asia Peace and Co-operation Initiative and plays a key role in the MIKTA grouping.  
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, now I have the pleasure of looking back upon the significant development of co-operation between our two countries in recent years. Both countries have shown excellent co-operation and have had mutual exchanges in various fields such as politics, trade, investment, culture, tourism and so on.
In 2011, then Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited South Africa and President Zuma visited Korea for international summit meetings in 2010 and 2012. Since then, high-level exchanges of visits have steadily increased.

Both the South African Speaker of the National Assembly and the NCOP Chairperson have paid visits to Korea. The Chief Justice of South Africa's Constitutional Court also visited Korea twice within the last three years. In December 2013, the Korean Prime Minister came to South Africa to attend the funeral of former President Nelson Mandela.

At ministerial-level, Korea and South Africa have successfully regularized the annual Policy Consultative Forum from 2011. Both sides are working on a mutually convenient time to hold the 9th PCF this year. At this year’s deliberations, I am sure that the way to a strategic partnership will be paved to upgrade current relations.

Along with positive political developments, our economic ties also continue to grow deeper and stronger. Korea is South Africa’s 4th largest trading partner in Asia, while South Africa remains Korea’s largest trading partner in Africa. Last year, two-way trade volumes reached 4 Billion US Dollars. South Africa’s world class wines, unique rooibos tea and other famous local products are very popular among Koreans. Korean cars, such as KIA and HYUNDAI, and high-tech electronics,  SAMSUNG and LG, have already been household names in South Africa for a long time.

Let us continue to position cultural exchanges at the centre of our relationship, through which deeper friendships between our two countries are forged and our two peoples are brought closer together. In this sense, the Korean Embassy has designated this October as the month of Korea. The Embassy will hold several cultural events such as a Korean Film and Food Festival, a non-verbal musical performance, BIBAP and a Taste of Korea workshop. These events will take place from next week. Please join me in seeing, tasting and enjoying Korean culture. All the related information appears on my Embassy’s homepages and also on the small fan distributed.       

In addition to these cultural exchanges, I would also like to emphasize the importance of people-to-people exchanges in upgrading the relations between our two countries.

People-to-people contacts are increasing steadily as well. Currently, there are about 5,000 South Koreans living in South Africa, and around 2,000 South Africans living in South Korea. The majority of those South Africans are English teachers, connecting South Korean students and their parents to South Africa. South Korea can become a huge market for the South African tourism industry. Last year, almost 13,000 Koreans visited South Africa, mainly for business and tourism. Koreans visiting South Africa are mesmerized by this country's natural beauty, rich arts and culture and warm-hearted people. Through these people-to-people contacts, I am glad to run into many South Africans on the streets, at shopping malls and at the airports saying Korean greetings like “안녕하세요? 감사합니다.” This growing trend may encourage the South African government to adopt Korean as the 12th official South African language.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me finish by proposing a toast to the everlasting friendship and prosperity of our two countries and to the continued good health of His Excellency President Jacob Zuma and Her Excellency President Park Geun-hye.



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