On the occasion of the National Foundation Day of Korea, I wish to convey my warmest greetings to the people and Government of Fiji. I also extend my felicitations to the Korean community in Fiji.
I would like to seize this opportunity to review what has unfolded in Korea and her relations with Fiji over the past 12 months.
To begin with, two major conferences of global significance were convened in Korea. The first was the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan (29 November - 1 December 2011) in which over 160 countries and international aid agencies including UN and OECD put forward strategies to achieve Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The second conference was the 2nd Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul (26 - 27 March 2012), whereby leaders of 47 countries deliberated on measures to counter nuclear terrorism and to prevent illegal trade of nuclear materials.
With regard to the issue of climate change, Korea's initiative on green growth will soon bear fruit as Inaugural Assembly of the Global Green Growth Institute will be convened in October this year at the headquarter in Korea.
Korea's extensive network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) further expanded. With entry into force of FTAs with the USA and the EU, one half of Korea's trade is regulated by FTAs. In 2011, Korea became the 9th country to surpass trade volume of $US 1 trillion. Notwithstanding global recession, Korea is the only country whose sovereign credit rating was recently upgraded by all major global rating agencies, namely Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch Ratings.
Korean people had sleepless fortnight during the London Olympics. Young Korean athletes thrilled the country with successive gold medals in shooting, archery, Judo, wrestling, fencing, gymnastics, not to mention Taekwondo. With 13 gold, 8 silver and seven bronze medals, Korea was placed in the 5th place on the medal tally. At the ensuing London Paralympics, Korea won a total of 27 medals, including nine gold. In our bilateral relations, I am most delighted that the opening of Fiji's Embassy in Korea was realized in July. It is a landmark event to herald full-fledged and reciprocal engagements in 41 years of diplomatic relations. The Hon. Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama visited Korea and presided over the observance of the Fiji Day celebrations during the Yeosu Exposition. Cabinet ministers and senior officials also visited Korea on a number of official missions.
Korea welcomes the on-going progress in electronic voter registration and establishment of the Constitution Commission to be followed by national consultation on a draft Constitution. Korea supports the roadmap for return to full democracy by 2014 election.
Bilateral trade grew after a few stagnant years. Trade volume in 2011 amounted to FJD 82 million, or 34 per cent increase from the year before. With a view to strengthening bilateral trade link, Korean Embassy hosted the first Fiji-Korea Business Forum last year. The Embassy facilitated signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Federation of Korean Industries and Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation in July 2012. The second Fiji-Korea Business Forum and Catalogue Exhibition is slated for 15th November.
Bilateral cooperation in economic development and resources is well underway. Early this year, Korea Airport Corporation was awarded with Doppler VHF Omni-directional Range & Distance Measuring Equipment (DVOR/DME) projects in Nadi and Nausori airport tendered by Airport Fiji Ltd. Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST, formerly KORDI) launched seafloor metallic sulfide exploration in April this year. Subsequently, the MOU was signed between Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs of Korea and Ministry of Land and Mineral Resources of Fiji.
In the area of development assistance, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) dedicated a photovoltaic power generation system at the USP as part of the renewable energy development project during 2010~2012. In the wake of successive floods in the Western Region early this year, KOICA provided a total of $US 100,000 as humanitarian relief assistance.
Learning from Korea's own experience that human resources are valuable asset in a country's development, Korea continues to provide the training and scholarship opportunities to Fijian government officials. On the average, KOICA sponsors seven people for Master Degree programmes and 25 people for short-term courses each year. Over 250 government officials have been benefitted from these programmes to date.
Korean dramas, movies, K-pop music and food are gaining popularity across Asia and beyond which culminated in a phenomenon called the "Korean Wave." A spectacular example would be the case of a Korean pop singer Psy who has become an overnight superstar with a song titled "Gangnam Style". Demonstrating a horse-riding dancing moves in strong beats, the music video has recorded over 300 million views in YouTube in two months of its release.
Cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts are expanding in scope. Korean Embassy in collaboration with Korea Foundation introduced Korean movies at the "Korean Film festival" in November last year. In August, "Explore the Taste of Korea" event in Suva was well received by invited guests.
In return, Fijian cultural performance was showcased to Korean people by the famed Kabu ni Vanua Meke Dance Group at the Fiji Day Celebrations during 2012 Yeosu Expo. I have no doubt that the dance group's performance will be the first of many which will follow in the years ahead.
Korea Olympic Committee and Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee signed an arrangement to facilitate exchange of coaching staff and athletes. Korea Broadcasting System made an arrangement with the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation on provision of TV programs.
Last year, a quarter of Korean population or 13 million people traveled abroad. Korean visitors to Fiji, however, slightly decreased to 5,100 people. While Korean visitors are small in number, many of them are honeymooners staying at high-end accommodations with penchant for shopping. Tourism authorities and businesses in Fiji may wish to take advantage of these characteristics of Korean visitors. In the era of globalisation, exchanges and cooperation between governments and peoples of the two countries are all the more important in promoting goodwill and friendship. I have high hope that the prospect for expanding and deepening ties across the board will be more promising, in particular, with the opening of the Fijian Embassy in Korea.