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Opening Remarks by H.E. Dr. CHOI Jong Kun 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the 17th Korea-Canada Forum October 23, 2020
Good morning and good evening,
Deputy Minister Marta Morgan,
I would like to first thank the co-chairs of the Korea-Canada Forum – Ambassador Yim Sung-joon and Ambassador Leonard Edwards. We appreciate your hard work in arranging this meaningful event. I just want to remind you all that this is my first appearance at a webinar like this.
Since its launch in 1996, the Korea-Canada Forum has played an important role in promoting Track 1.5 exchange between our two countries. In this year’s forum, I look forward to in-depth discussions on a wide range of common issues facing us today.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. Seven decades ago, in our time of greatest need, 27,000 Canadians heeded our call for help. They traveled to defend a country an ocean away. From the Battle of Kapyong to the Battle of Hill 335, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder to defend freedom and democracy. Our eternal gratitude to Canada’s brave veterans has not faded one bit.
Last summer, in the middle of the pandemic, the Korean government provided 35,000 masks to Canadian veterans of the war – for which the Korean public showed overwhelming support. This is a small reflection of the special concern we have for the health of veterans who sacrificed so much to protect Korea.
Our historical relationship, elevated to a Strategic Partnership in 2014, has expanded and deepened continuously, especially in the areas of trade and science & technology. In particular, the Korea-Canada FTA, now in its fifth year, has been key to a balanced expansion of bilateral commercial relationship.
Thriving people-to-people exchange between Canada and Korea underpin the deepening bonds between us. More than 240,000 Koreans now live in Canada, home to one of the largest Korean communities in the world. 27,000 Canadians call Korea their second home.
The collective fight against COVID-19 adds another important dimension of partnership between us. Indeed, new threats to health and human security have in fact brought us closer together
From the early days of the outbreak, Canada and Korea have maintained close coordination and communications in our response to COVID-19, including at the highest levels. Korea also actively participates in the Ministerial Coordination Group on COVID-19 led by Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.
As we ponder – and wonder – what a post-COVID-19 world would look like, we should work together to map out the future of Korea-Canada relations. Here are my thoughts for moving forward.
First, we should stand united in strengthening multilateralism. COVID-19 has brought to the fore the existing vulnerabilities of multilateral institutions and global governance.
It has brought into focus the urgent need to strengthen multilateral systems that serve the international community. It has never been more apparent that “no one is safe until everyone is” – because we all share this planet.
We need to unite and remake this time of crisis into a time of opportunity. We need a more resilient and sustainable multilateral order. Korea and Canada have vital roles to play here, by becoming driving forces for cooperation. It is against this backdrop that Korea and Canada launched the Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security as co-chairs in order to support the work of the UN.
Second, we bring your attention to the Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Agreement signed in 2016. We should formulate ways to utilize this agreement.
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our way of life and socio-economic interactions. It has created both daunting challenges as well as unique opportunities to rethink our ways of life. Korea is preparing for the post-COVID-19 era by pursuing the Green and Digital New Deal, and in this regard, partnership with Canada is crucial. We always look forward to working closely with you.
In fact, Canada has emerged as a critical hub for the artificial intelligence (AI) sector. Over the last three years, Korean companies including Samsung and LG have established AI labs and branch offices in Toronto and Montreal. We anticipate close cooperation with our Canadian partners in embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Third, we look forward to Canada’s continued support on our journey towards permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
We’ve seen meaningful progress in the peace process, including the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summits.
Unfortunately, the talks are currently at an impasse, and we need to now take stock. What is clear to me is that we cannot afford to go back on the valuable progress we have so far made, nor lose sight of our goals.
I would like to express my deep appreciation for Canada’s unwavering support for denuclearization and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Canada hosted a timely foreign ministers’ meeting in Vancouver in 2018 to foster a diplomatic resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue. Canada is also promoting engagement with North Korea by providing humanitarian aid through the World Food Program (WFP) and UNICEF. I would like to take this opportunity to ask you for your continued support for this process.
Korea and Canada have nurtured an even closer friendship since becoming Strategic Partners in 2014. Frameworks such as the Korea-Canada FTA and the Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Agreement have provided a solid basis for this. In addition, as like-minded countries, we are working together on global issues like development, climate change, and the empowerment of women. There are so many areas that would benefit from a strong Canada-Korea partnership.
This forum is a great opportunity to explore these areas. I look forward to a rich and productive discussion.
Please stay strong and safe until we meet again. Thank you.