Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the German-Korean Forum

17.11.2011 - Speech

For two days the Xth German-Korean Forum is convening at the Federal Foreign Office. Members of the German Bundestag and South Korea’s National Assembly are discussing issues on the current political agenda

Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the Xth German-Korean Forum held in Berlin on 17 and 18 November

Vice Minister Kim,
fellow parliamentarians,
ladies and gentlemen,

The German-Korean Forum is now being held for the tenth time. That’s reason for warm congratulations all round. The Forum is taking place against a background of excellent bilateral relations. Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Seoul last November and President Lee’s visit to Germany in May have highlighted yet again the close cooperation we enjoy.

Our Forum has set itself ambitious goals. According to its statutes, its purpose is to deepen mutual understanding and promote bilateral relations.

That is what the Forum hopes to achieve. This year we’ve once again managed to bring together prominent participants from Korea and Germany to explore issues that are important to both countries.

Our discussions this year follow on very neatly from the main focus of last year’s gathering. In 2010 the emphasis was on domestic developments in both countries, the economic and financial crisis, innovation and demographics. Current demographic trends in particular were the subject of heated debate.

The reason, I suppose, is that such trends indicate how our societies are evolving over the long term. We’re not dealing here with run-of-the-mill events, we’re looking into the future and seeing the shape of things to come.

To my mind, the changes to the format we’ve introduced this year – three working groups meeting in parallel – demonstrate that the Forum is a very innovation-friendly institution. That’s just how we as the German Government envisage the Forum moving forward: evolving in terms of content, format and participants in line with current developments.

The Forum is a work in progress, the two hosts take it in turns to provide fresh input and ideas.

Germany and Korea have much in common. We can both look back on spectacular economic achievements in the post-war years and we both have bitter experience of what it means to be a divided country.Germany’s division has now become history, bat it was a long haul.

At the same time as our German-Korean Forum meets here, a new German-Korean forum of experts is convening for the first time in Seoul. The aim of this new body is to see what lessons can be learnt from Germany’s experience of reunification in the context of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. From this point of view, too, the Xth German-Korean Forum is a historic date.

Our intensive dialogue in this area testifies, moreover, to Germany’s staunch support for the goal to which you aspire: that Koreans throughout the Peninsula should be able to live under the rule of law and in security and prosperity.

At present, however, much of our attention is concentrated on the issues dominating the international agenda right now. The world economy is going through turbulent times, with the euro crisis exacerbating what is unfortunately an already difficult situation.In times such as these, stable trade relations with Korea are doubly important. And here there’s happily some good news to report. The Free Trade Agreement between the EU and South Korea entered into force on 1 July and will give a further boost to trade between our two countries.

What’s crucial here is that both sides have agreed to implement it in a way that will ensure long-term impact.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula remains difficult. At the moment North Korea seems ready to talk again, but it has given no sign that it is prepared to get serious about denuclearization, internal reforms or improvements in the area of human rights. We, too, care deeply about these issues and want to see progress here at long last for Koreans living on both sides of the 38th parallel.

These and many other issues will be discussed at the German-Korean Forum over the next couple of days.

I find it a great pity that I cannot be with you longer to take part in the debate myself.

Please accept once again my congratulations on the tenth anniversary of the Forum. It shows this dialogue format is built on very solid foundations. Our support for the Forum is an indication of the importance the German Government attaches to such a platform for broad-ranging encounters and exchange. This exchange would be inconceivable, however, without all the hard work done by the two co-chairs and the many helpers in the background as well as the contributions of the speakers and participants. I would like to offer all of them heartfelt thanks.

Vice Minister Kim,

Koreans and Germans have a great deal in common, including some very similar sayings. When you say “Shijshagi banida” [= literally: “The start is the half”], we say “A good start is half the battle.” So now I look forward to your opening remarks and wish us all a successful and stimulating meeting.

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