Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the honourable Ms Sue van der Merwe, at the National Day Celebrations of the Republic of Korea, Pretoria, 1 October 2004

Ambassador Kim Eun-Soo,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests

It is indeed a pleasure to be present at the National Day celebrations of the Republic of Korea.

Today we celebrate the founding of an ancient nation united by language and culture, a proud people who strengthened themselves over the centuries by forging a common identity

Despite invasions from neighbouring countries, Koreans have remembered and kept alive the history of five thousand years of civilization and have preserved their glorious cultural heritage. It is this desire to locate ourselves within the broad panorama of history and culture that we as Africans share with you a sense that, what we know about our past can empower us to do better in the future, and a belief that we are engaged in an African renaissance in the making.

It is this spirit of unity in action that we look up to today in a world characterized by great divides within nations, between developing and developed states and growing gaps between the rich and the poor of the world.

It is this past glory coupled with your present-day achievements that we celebrate. The innovative and creative people of Korea have demonstrated a great collective will and displayed their considerable talents and skills that have resulted in outstanding economic and cultural achievements for your country. This is an example for us in our efforts to expand our economy and to effect social change so that these bring more tangible benefits for our people.

In this context, the overwhelming challenge for us all is how we address these issues that divide us, how we work together to create a more people-centred and prosperous reality and how we forge unity so as to end poverty, disease and underdevelopment and to nurture a more egalitarian world society free of the scourge of racism. Furthermore, how do we use the institutions of the world to the advantage of the needy, the suffering, the marginalized, so that we create a truly better world and sustainable development. Indeed how together do we foster the birth of something new, a Golden Age for the human race?

As Korea and South Africa we share a basic commonality in that we both believe that there can be no enduring stability or permanent prosperity in the world in this century, unless the development challenges of the developing world are addressed meaningfully, not only through words but also through concrete actions.

Your country has been supportive of our country in the first ten years of our democracy as a keen participant in our striving to do away with the apartheid legacy and to develop our country for all our people. You have also expressed your commitment to the NEPAD processes.

Formal diplomatic relations between South Africa and Korea were only established on 1 December 1992. However, let us remind ourselves that contact between South Africa and the Republic of Korea dates back many decades. The cornerstone of relations has been the good trade relations, and sound interactions, which have progressed from strength to strength since 1990.

Trade has been increasing year by year - Korea is presently South Africa's fourth largest trade partner in Asia and in 2003, total trade was in the amount of 1,1 billion US dollars:

We have had many high-level visits to your country over the past few years, including an official visit by former President Nelson Mandela in 1995, former Minister of Foreign Affairs the late Mr Alfred Nzo also in 1995, an official visit by our current President Thabo Mbeki as the then Deputy President in 1998, plus visits by other senior member of our government.

Interactions between senior officials of our respective departments have also yielded positive results. One such interaction was the Second South Africa - South Korea Policy Consultative Meeting (PCM) which took place in Seoul on 14 and 15 June 2004.

Korea has also been active in development assistance to South Africa and helping to train senior government officials. We look forward to continued co-operation in the future, especially in the areas of trade and investment, and to collaborate in the provision of information and communications technology. We also hope to learn a great deal from your country as we prepare to host the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

In this regard, South Africa is engaging the expertise of a country, which has successfully walked the development path to building a better life for its own citizens after a period of near total destruction caused during the Second World War and its aftermath.

It is this spirit of unity and co-operation, the resilient power of a people and a nation to change their reality for the better that we celebrate. It is for the deepening democracy in the world, for the strengthening human rights and economic development that we, as people of Korea and of South Africa and the world, strive for.

On this important occasion, on behalf of the Government and People of South Africa, allow me to extend to Your Excellency warm congratulations on your National Day in the knowledge that our relations will only grow from strength to strength in the future.

As we renew our relations and strengthen the ties between us, we are also renewing the efforts of two countries on two continents who wish to take their rightful and proud place in the world, inspired by the spirit of the past and infused by the energies of the people of our present generation. Together let us look forward to a truly Golden Age.

I thank you.

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