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PM's Luncheon Speech At Blue House, Seoul, Korea

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Speech at luncheon hosted by the President of the Republic of Korea


Blue House, Seoul

Friday 25 July 2003

Your Excellency President Roh, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Your Excellency, thank you for your kind words. You have shown why the Republic of Korea is held in such high esteem in my country. I thank you for the honour you do me in hosting this lunch.

Our discussions this morning demonstrated how far-reaching the links between our two countries have grown. We share strong values of democracy and political liberty; we hold a common belief that governments have a responsibility to build an environment in which the economic, social, cultural and creative freedoms of their people can flourish. Together we are working to promote and to defend these values within our region and beyond.

We spoke at length this morning of our shared concern about developments in North Korea. New Zealand is committed to support the efforts of your government and those working closely with you to reduce tension on the peninsula. We look forward to the people of North Korea being able to enjoy the economic wellbeing that has been denied them. No country can prosper while its people’s welfare is subordinated to the demands of an all-consuming military.

New Zealand’s early support for KEDO showed our insistence that the Korean peninsula should remain denuclearised. We have said repeatedly to the government of North Korea that any moves to develop nuclear weapons must stop now. The DPRK must live up to its international obligations. New Zealand applauds the efforts of your Government, in company with Japan and the United States, to remove the threat of nuclear escalation from the region. We welcome the recent initiative of the Government of China to convene a meeting in Beijing that brought North Korea to the table to discuss these issues. While that was indeed welcome my government firmly believes that the Republic of Korea must have a place at any further such talks.

Peace and security on the Korean peninsula is the foundation on which the relationship between the Republic of Korea and New Zealand has been able to prosper.

Trade between our two countries is strong, with the Republic of Korea being the sixth largest market for the export of New Zealand goods. Our trade in services is growing even faster. Some 110,000 of your people each year explore the adventure and the scenery that we can offer them. We welcome your young people to our schools and universities. Nearly 15,000 Korean students are now studying in New Zealand, while more and more young New Zealanders in turn are coming to Korea. Our Ambassador tells me that there are now more than 1,500 here teaching English.

A key priority for my government is to see New Zealand develop our scientific and technological base. In areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information science we have expertise that offers scope for fruitful international collaboration. Korea’s great achievements make you a natural partner for us in this endeavour. We have welcomed leading scientists from Korea in New Zealand, and my Minister of Science will come here in September to carry this partnership forward.

The sizeable community of Koreans who have emigrated to New Zealand – a community that has now reached some 25,000 people – has brought intellectual, business and cultural skills that enrich our country. Young Korean New Zealanders are making their way into the professions and into our business community. In the highly competitive entry to our diplomatic service this year the first Korean born New Zealander was selected to become a New Zealand diplomat. I am proud that we have the confidence to accept that a young woman who spent the early years of her life in Seoul can and should represent New Zealand internationally.

It is fitting that our young people should now be shaping the way our countries view each other. Fifty years ago it was another group of young New Zealanders who came to Korea in much more difficult circumstances. They came with a sense of adventure and idealism; in the service of a country that believed then, as now, that unprovoked aggression must be resisted. They fought, and died, to allow the Republic of Korea to secure its own future.

I am proud to be accompanied on this visit by a group of those men, many of whom have not seen this land since they came here as soldiers and sailors serving in United Nations colours. They have come to honour their colleagues who did not return to New Zealand. They are seeing the transformation of the country they knew as young men, and they can see that their efforts, and the sacrifice of their colleagues, were not in vain.

Tomorrow I will travel with them to Busan. There at the graves of their comrades we will remember the price they paid for the freedom on which this country has built such prosperity. We will express our thanks to you for the watch you have kept over those we entrusted to your care fifty years ago.

Your Excellency, we have come a long way in those fifty years. We are partners now in areas and to an extent that few if any could have foreseen five decades ago. But even with that we have only begun to explore the potential that the creativity of our two peoples and our business communities can build for us in the years ahead. So Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to join with me in a toast to the health of His Excellency President Roh, and to the future prosperity of the relationship between the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.


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