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Office of the President of the Republic of Korea

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Speeches and Remarks

Address by President Yoon Suk Yeol to the British Parliament

2023.11.21

A FRIENDSHIP TO TURN OUR CHALLENGES TO PURE

OPPORTUNITY

- ADDRESS TO THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT -

 

My Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, my lords, members of the House of Commons, ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is my great honour to stand before the British Parliament – the Mother of all Parliaments.

 

The United Kingdom has been the pioneer of modern history. It laid the foundation of liberal democracy. It opened the era of global market economy.

 

The British people’s strong belief in freedom sparked the Glorious Revolution. It was the birth of modern parliamentary democracy.

 

The British parliamentary democracy inspired political revolutions in America, France, and in other parts of the world. Democracy has taken root in nations. Freedom and human rights became the property of every individual.

 

In the late eighteenth century, the Kingdom of Great Britain led the Industrial Revolution. It innovated the way we produced goods. It changed the economic paradigm. It achieved an incredible, rapid economic growth which the world had never seen before.

 

It is no wonder why London became the world’s financial centre since the early nineteenth century.

 

Liberal democracy and market capitalism were all born right here in the United Kingdom. These British ideas changed every aspect of our lives. They have promoted freedom, human rights, and economic prosperity in the world.

 

And I know very well that Parliament has always been the heart of this great nation.

 

My lords and members of the House of Commons,

 

The United Kingdom was the first European nation to sign the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with Korea in eighteen eighty-three.

 

John Ross was a missionary from Scotland. He translated the New Testament into Korean for the first time in eighteen eighty-seven.

 

Earnest Bethell was a journalist from Bristol. He founded in nineteen-ofour. He also fought for Korea’s independence until he passed away at the age of thirty-six.

 

Frank Schofield was a missionary and veterinarian from Warwickshire. He took part in Korea’s independence movement and established a scholarship fund for Korean students in need.

 

In nineteen fifty, the United Kingdom did not hesitate to defend Korea’s freedom.

 

When the communist invasion put the fate of Korea on the brink, the United Kingdom sent eighty thousand troops to Korea.

 

It was the second largest sending state. More than one thousand British men and women sacrificed their lives to defend the freedom of a faraway country they never knew.

 

Lieutenant Colonel James Carne and his battalion, the first Glosters, showed great courage at the Battle of the Imjin River.

 

Like the unit’s motto “By our deeds we are known,” the noble sacrifice of the British Army will forever remain in the memory of the Korean people.

 

Today we are honoured to have Mr. Colin Thackery with us. Mr. Thackery, of course, is the winner of “Britain’s Got Talent” twenty nineteen. But he is also a proud Korean War veteran and Korea’s honorary Veterans Minister.

 

Mr. Thackery, On behalf of the Korean people and the government, I thank you with deep gratitude and respect.

 

This past July was the seventieth anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement. Mr. Thackery visited Busan again, the city where he first landed during the Korean War. There, he sang for the fallen heroes lying in rest at the UN memorial cemetery.

 

It was a Korean folk song called ‘Arirang,’ a song of remembrance for beloved ones. His song touched everyone’s heart.

 

The war reduced Korea to ashes. When it desperately needed foreign assistance, again the United Kingdom did not look the other way.

 

The United Kingdom contributed more than twenty-six million dollars to the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency.

 

The United Kingdom supported the establishment of Ulsan shipyard, Gori nuclear powerplant, and Ulsan Institute of Technology. As the second largest contributor, it helped Korea lay the foundation as an emerging industrial country.

 

Thanks to the support from the nations of the free world like the United Kingdom, Korea has since written a story of miraculous success.

 

Korea was one of the least developed countries. Now it is an economic powerhouse leading the semiconductor industry and digital technology sector.

 

Korean culture is winning the hearts of global citizens. Once a recipient of aid, Korea is the only nation in modern history to become a donor.

 

My lords and members of the House of Commons,

 

This year we celebrate the one hundred fortieth Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. It will be an important and meaningful year for our partnership.

 

Last spring, the United Kingdom forces participated in the Korea-United States combined exercise for the first time. We are building new mechanisms for intelligence sharing and cyber security cooperation.

 

Together, we will tackle North Korea’s WMD threats. We will work more closely together to combat international cybercrimes including cryptocurrency theft and technology hacking.

 

Our bilateral trade and investment have thrived in many areas like finance, logistics, service, and bioscience. The FTA between Korea and the United Kingdom that took effect in twenty twenty-one has added further momentum.

 

We will begin negotiations to modernize the FTA to strengthen cooperation on supply chains and digital trade.

 

Tomorrow, Prime Minister Sunak and I will sign ‘the Downing Street Accord.’ Our bilateral relations will be reborn as true “Global Strategic Partners.”

 

Together, we will build a free and open international order. Together, we will cultivate sustainable growth and prosperity for all of humanity.

 

We will broaden our cooperation to digital, AI, cyber security, nuclear energy, and defense industry. It will also include bio, outer space, semi-conductors, offshore wind, green energy, and the maritime sector.

 

I kindly ask for your interest in and support for this partnership.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We are now faced with a new set of challenges.

 

There are geopolitical risks like the war in Ukraine, the Israel and Hamas conflict, and the North Korean nuclear threats. They make unity of the international community harder to sustain.

 

There are supply chain disruptions, climate change and digital divide. They are widening economic inequalities among nations. Arnold Toynbee said, “Civilizations come to birth and proceed to grow by successfully responding to successive challenges.”

 

The Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom are authors of dynamic and creative histories. We must stand in solidarity and respond to many of the world’s challenges.

 

One country alone cannot defend peace. Korea stands united with the United Kingdom and the international community to fight against illegal aggression and provocations. We will uphold established norms and international order.

 

Korea will work with the United Kingdom to bolster the political and economic security in the Indo-Pacific region.

 

Korea and the United Kingdom will seek ways to utilize nuclear power and other clean energy sources.

 

At the same time, we will assist countries most affected by climate change in their efforts for green transition.

 

The new digital age presents us with new challenges to our freedom and democracy.

 

AI and digital technology must serve to enhance freedom and well-being.

 

We also need to prevent potential harm that may arise due to their connectivity and speed. Thus, we need to establish a universal norm that will be accepted by the international community.

 

Prime Minister Sunak has shown strong leadership in shaping a new order for the digital age.

 

He convened the first ever AI Summit at Bletchley Park earlier this month. I was there on-line to take part.

 

Last September, the Korean government announced ‘The Digital Bill of Rights.’ It sets forth five guiding principles of freedom, fairness, safety, innovation, and solidarity.

 

The Korean government is committed to leading international dialogue and cooperation on shaping new digital AI norms.

 

It will work with the United Kingdom’s AI Safety Network and the United Nation’s High-level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence.

 

In addition, we will put more efforts to bridge the digital divide and to drive digital innovation.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Korea and the United Kingdom share histories of glorious challenge and response. But we also share our charm in culture and arts.

 

The United Kingdom is the country of the Beatles, Queen, Harry Potter and David Beckham’s right foot. Korea is the country of the BTS, Black Pink, Squid Game and Son Heung Min’s right foot.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Winston Churchill once said, “the price of greatness is responsibility.”

 

It is time for us, as innovative partners, to contribute to a better future for humanity. The Republic of Korea, in partnership with the United Kingdom, will join hands to promote freedom, peace and prosperity for the international community.

 

It was a great honor for me to share with you at Westminster the future that Korea and the United Kingdom will shape together.

 

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

 

Let me end by paraphrasing a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “For this friendship may so happy prove, to turn our challenges to pure opportunity.”

 

God bless the great nation of the United Kingdom and its people.

 

Thank you very much.