2018 National Day Reception
and the Opening Ceremony of New Residence
○ Hon. Minister Harin Fernando, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank you all deeply for being here at the National Day Reception and the Opening Ceremony of the new Residence. 2018 has indeed been a significant year for Korea. It is a monumental year, marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean Government, against the backdrop of the recent Inter-Korean Summit in Pyeongyang. This is of tremendous importance for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
○ And for me personally, it is a very special year. This January, I was assigned as the Korean Ambassador to Sri Lanka, which was my first post abroad in the 1990s. Today, I also have the honor to celebrate the opening of the new Residence in Horton Place. I would like to seek your support for establishing the place of the new Residence, along with the Embassy, as a central nexus in the friendship between Korea and Sri Lanka.
□ Korea-Sri Lanka ties
○ The longstanding friendship between Korea and Sri Lanka was made official in the year 1977, when diplomatic relations between our two countries were established. We have come a long way together since then. Today we enjoy thriving ties of friendship – a friendship which is based on mutual trust and respect, and a friendship which spans a whole range of fields: the political, social, economic, development cooperation, cultural, educational and sports realms.
○ In particular, the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations last year has generated great momentum for active exchanges between high-level personnel. Last year President Sirisena paid a state visit to Korea in November and this year, Karu Jayasuriya, Speaker of the Parliament, and other delegates visited Korea. And conversely many high-ranking Korean delegations also visited Sri Lanka, for the Foreign Ministers Meeting in March 2017, for the Bilateral Political Consultations and for the 1st Joint Economic Commission in June 2018. They have proven to be invaluable in exploring new avenues for future cooperation between our countries.
○ Korea and Sri Lanka share much more commonalities than people generally think – shared elements which bind our two countries together and make us bosom friends. For instance, we are both situated in geopolitically strategic locations next to major powers; both have a long history with a rich Buddhist heritage of thousands of years; we have gone through colonization and the struggle for independence; we have experienced the chaos and tragedy of civil war - and today both Korea and Sri Lanka have vibrant democracies with a market economy and a multi-cultural society. I firmly believe that these common elements will be the strong foundation, on which our two countries continue to build upon our relations in the years ahead - to the mutual benefit of our peoples.
□ Economy, Labor and Development Cooperation
○ On the economic front, our two countries, which share complementary economic structures, have seen a gradual development of economic and trade cooperation over the past 40 years. Until the early 2000s, Korea was the biggest foreign investor in the island. Currently, both public and private sectors are engaging more actively with each other to seek effective ways to move forward and develop a future-oriented strategy for the sustainable development of both countries. For instance, the high-end technology and follow-up services of Korean companies would enable them to greatly supplement promising sectors in Sri Lanka. Key examples include sustainable energy, ICT, multi-purpose harbours and eco-friendly water management.
○ The on-going labor cooperation contributes greatly to employment and job creation as well as people-to-people exchanges between our two countries. Through the Employment Permit System (EPS) of Korea, more than 54,000 Sri Lankan workers have found job opportunities in Korea. Due to Korea’s ‘Equal pay for equal work’ principle and transparent procedures, Sri Lankan youth have shown great interest in the EPS labour cooperation initiative. And those who are employed in Korea have contributed greatly to the economic advancement of both countries. I believe that the opportunities available to Sri Lankan youth could be further enhanced by strengthening the competitiveness of the Sri Lankan workforce through investment in human resource development and vocational training – in which fields the Korean Government also provides ODA programs – as well as by establishing an effective mechanism to monitor and reduce the number of unlawfully overstaying labourers. If these essential steps are taken, I believe that both countries stand much more to gain through labour cooperation.
○ Development cooperation has also been a defining feature of our bilateral ties. Indeed, Sri Lanka is now one of Korea’s top ‘priority partner countries.’ Korea has unique experience and know-how to share gained from its process of transforming itself from aid recipient to aid donor. As a reliable middle power, Korea is a trustworthy donor partner for Sri Lanka to meet the current and future needs for national development. When President Sirisena paid a state visit to Korea in November 2017, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, the Korean Government increased the 2017-2019 Economic Development Cooperation Fund(EDCF) to 500 million USD. In addition to various Grant Programs, there are around 100 World Friends KOICA Volunteers coming to Sri Lanka every year, to join their hands in development efforts across the island.
□ People-to-People Exchanges and Cultural and Educational Cooperation
○ People-to-people exchanges and cultural cooperation are the very foundation of the decades-old friendship between our two countries. Following the great success of the Korean drama “Jewel in the Palace (Sujatha Diyani)” telecasted in Sri Lanka in 2012, Sri Lankan people have taken a greater interest in Korea, its people and culture. Building on this momentum, the Embassy has hosted various cultural events in Sri Lanka over the past several years such as the K-pop World Festival, Quiz on Korea, Taekwondo Championships and Korean Film Festival. In particular, I would like to invite your attention to the fact that the Film Festival is scheduled to be held from October 12 to 15 at the National Film Corporation.
○ From a long-term perspective, youth exchanges and educational cooperation have been one of the most significant links between our two countries. Each year, the Korean Government provides Government Scholarships (GKS) for undergraduate and postgraduate programs in Korea. Additionally, the Korean Government provides assistance for the Korea Corner at the Colombo Public library, King Sejong Institute, and the University of Kelaniya.
□ Peace and Prosperity on the Korean Peninsula
○ This year, a series of historic inter-Korean Summits took place – for the first time in the past 11 years. In close cooperation with the international community, the Republic of Korea has been doing its utmost to bring peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. Inter- Korean relations are the key in moving further towards the denuclearization. Taking this opportunity, I wish to send my deepest regards to the Government and the people of Sri Lanka, for consistently supporting Korean government’s policy on Korean Peninsula.
□ Concluding Remarks
○ Last but not least, I am glad of this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the people of both Korea and Sri Lanka. It is thanks to you that the ties of friendship between our two countries have further strengthened – and continued to deepen. And your continuing invaluable support would be deeply appreciated. Thank you.