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Keynote Speech by H.E. Mr. Cho Sei-young 1st Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the 16th Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum (2019.11.13.)

  • Date : 2019-11-13 13:13:24
  • Hit : 11420

Ambassador Kim Bong Hyun, President of the Jeju Peace Institute,

Ambassador Kim Jin Soo, Secretary-General of the Korea-Arab Society,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalam alaikum!
Welcome to the 16th Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum. I am particularly pleased that our friends and colleagues from the Middle East are visiting Korea during the best time of the year, when the air is crisp and the leaves are changing into vibrant colors. Our special thanks go out to the Korea-Arab Society, the Jeju Peace Institute and the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) for organizing this important gathering.

This year, the ECSSR has joined in hosting the annual Forum that links experts of Korea and the Middle East. Over the past fifteen years, through your continuous engagement and support, the Forum has developed into the premier venue for discussing issues that matter to our two regions.

For those of you who are coming from the Middle East, the long flight to Seoul must have been a physical reminder of the geographical distance between our two regions. But geography has not stopped us from coming together in the spirit of partnership. Modern cooperation between Korea and the Middle East took off in the 1970s. But in truth, engagement between our peoples stretch back a thousand years – when Middle Eastern merchants travelled the Silk Road to trade with the Silla Dynasty. These merchants introduced the name "Corea" to the outside world for the first time.

Energy and construction have historically served as the backbone of our modern partnership. But in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, we hope to reach beyond conventional modes of cooperation in order to partner in information technology (IT), nuclear power, renewable energy, and healthcare. Korean businesses, keenly aware of the needs and preferences of the Middle East, are the ideal partners for countries of the region aggressively pursuing economic reforms to grow a post-oil economy. It is no accident that Bloomberg Innovation Index has recognized Korea as the world’s most innovative country for the sixth consecutive year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I must stress that our comprehensive relations stretch even beyond the realm of business and economy. Korea's Cheong-Hae naval unit is a key part of international anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. The Dong-Myung Unit is contributing to reconstruction activities in Lebanon. And Korea is increasing humanitarian assistance to help victims of the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

Of course, our partnership goes two ways. Earlier this year, the UAE government was instrumental in bringing back a Korean citizen kidnapped in western Libya. Korea’s Akh Unit and UAE experts are working side-by-side to reinforce security cooperation. Such extensive partnerships that directly touch upon the safety of our citizens are only possible because of the deep trust and confidence that we place in each other.
Such trust and confidence is underpinned by the flourishing exchanges between our peoples. Korea’s interest in Islam and the Middle East continues to grow. Our high school and college students are studying the Arabic language in record numbers. BTS, the K-Pop sensation, performed at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium to a sellout crowd, becoming the first non-Arab artists to perform in the iconic venue.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since assuming office, President Moon Jae-in has spared no effort to promote peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. The comprehensive peace process is based on three core principles: zero tolerance for war, mutual security guarantees and co-prosperity. As a concrete step to reduce tensions on the peninsula, President Moon proposed transforming the DMZ into an international peace zone.

I believe these efforts on the Korean Peninsula will also resonate in the Middle East. The interconnected nature of our world means that security here affects the security in the Middle East, and vice versa. It is therefore crucial for us to continue supporting one another in efforts to bring lasting peace to our regions.

I would like to close by sharing with you an Arabic saying that you may be familiar with: “Al-jaiyat ahssan min alraiihaat. What is to come will be better than what has passed.” I believe these words dovetail with the theme of this year’s Forum – Mapping Paths to New Frontier of Korea-Middle East Cooperation – and perfectly encapsulate the future of Korea-Middle East partnership.

I look forward to many thoughtful discussions.

Thank you. Shukran.