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Welcoming Remarks by Soongu Yoon Deputy Minister for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea Fifth Korea-EU International Conference on Middle Eastern and North African Affairs

  • Date : 2019-07-16 13:18:39
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Welcoming Remarks by Soongu Yoon
Deputy Minister for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea
Fifth Korea-EU International Conference on Middle Eastern and North African Affairs

- May 2, 2019, Seoul -




His Excellency Michael Reiterer, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Korea,
His Excellency Nasser Judeh, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan,

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning. Let me begin by extending my warmest welcome to each and every one of you who are present at this year’s Korea-EU International Conference on Middle Eastern and North African Affairs. The Ministry is proud to co-host this annual event which, over the past five years, has grown into the representative conference in Korea for the exchange of views in Korea on issues of the Middle East and North Africa. Today, I am all the more pleased simply because I can receive you in this beautiful spring season, free from air pollution.


Middle East and North Africa are geographically distant from Korea. Nevertheless, these are regions that have historically been close to our hearts and minds. Both the European Union and Korea are intimate stakeholders in this part of the world which impacts the global economic and security landscape like no other.

The topic of this year’s conference is The Reshaping of the Middle East: New Challenges and Opportunities.

While we have been fortunate to close the chapters on some conflicts, new challenges have surfaced, often in concert with a growing sense of impunity. Beating back ISIS has presented post-ISIS challenges for stabilization. Some experts say that the impending reduction of U.S. forces in Syria is poised to shift the balance of power across the region.

At the same time, there are new opportunities. We are witnessing an increasing willingness by countries of the Middle East to firmly take the reins of confronting regional challenges. As on the Korean Peninsula, leaders of the Middle East are setting aside stale perceptions that dialogue occurs only among friends. Governments across the regions are promoting social and economic reforms on unprecedented and historic scales – with results to show. There is a heightened desire among the youth of the Middle East to leverage their voices and connectivity to facilitate constructive change.

We hope that this gathering of eminent and distinguished experts will help us better comprehend this changing environment, and more importantly, how the international community can contribute to addressing its challenges.

I am also happy to note that this year, for the first time, we are opening a part of this conference – Session I - to students with keen interest in the Middle East. We look forward to even more fruitful and lively discussions.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Addressing the challenges facing the Middle East starts with recognizing the simple truth that ultimately, peace and prosperity will be achieved through the region’s own internal efforts rather than any external imposition.

In this regard, the European Union has extended valuable leadership in fostering participatory engagement in the region. For example, the Young Mediterranean Voices Project supported by the EU provides an annual platform that invites 80,000 young people across the Arab region to foster interaction and engagement to address issues within their own communities.

Korea is also making efforts to promote collaborative projects, particularly in the cultural realm. The Korea-Arab Society hosts the annual Arab Cultural Festival in Korea to strengthen people-to-people exchange between the peoples of the Middle East and Korea. The Korea-Arab Friendship Caravan has been promoting Korea’s unique cultural heritage, including music and arts across the Middle East for the past 11 years, and every year we are delighted to be received with even greater interest and enthusiasm than the year before.

We are also proud to launch the Korea-UAE Joint R&D Center in Abu Dhabi this year to strengthen cooperation in the science and technology sector. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Khalifa University are seeking to jointly develop core technologies for the fourth industrial revolution.


Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distrust and misunderstanding are the breeding grounds of animosity and conflicts. There are no short cuts to building trust and mutual understanding than connecting and interacting at the personal level.

I hope that this gathering will provide academics, government officials, students and other stakeholders of the Middle East an important chance to exchange frank views concerning the challenges and opportunities of this consequential region, and how we, as residents of Europe and Korea can help mobilize new opportunities.

Before closing, I would like to conclude by once again welcoming you to the 5th Korea-EU International Conference on Middle Eastern and North African Affairs. I look forward to constructive discussions and insights.

Thank you.