New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea

Keynote address by Andrea Smith, Deputy Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Deputy Secretary Andrea Smith of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade delivered a key note address at the New Zealand Asia Institute conference, "New Zealand, Korea and Asia-Pacific: From distance to closeness", on Friday 16 November.

Professor McCutcheon
Professor Whittaker
Ambassador Park
Distinguished participants

Year of Friendship

I welcome this conference as an important event during our Year of Friendship – the fiftieth anniversary of New Zealand’s diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea.  You have organised a very interesting and diverse programme of discussion topics and it is a pleasure to see such distinguished experts taking part.

We’ve had a terrific Year of Friendship in both countries.  We have of course had the sort of high level political exchanges and visits one would expect in such an auspicious year – Foreign Ministers from each country have visited the other.

But the Year of Friendship has been about much more than governments and politicians.  It has also been about the Korean and New Zealand people and our cultures.

To pick a few highlights, we’ve seen:

  • Kapa Haka in the middle of Seoul’s busiest shopping district;  
  • Psy at Number 1 on the New Zealand charts;  
  • K-Pop performances throughout New Zealand – including spontaneous hip-hop on the Interislander ferry;  
  • many exchanges of dance, music, theatre and academia;  and
  • young Korean-Kiwi Lydia Ko’s outstanding golfing achievements, though I don’t think any of us can claim credit for her hard work or talent.

Over fifty years, we’ve long since moved past just diplomatic relations.  Our artists, business people, students, tourists, scientists, sister cities and more are busy exploring new areas to work more closely together.

Today the relationship has a vibrant momentum of its own.  It is worth reflecting on how we got to here, and how we will continue to drive forward.

New Zealand’s On-going Security Commitment

While New Zealand and the Republic of Korea formed diplomatic relations 50 years ago, our bonds were forged over 60 years ago in the Korean War. 

We continue to this day to hold a very strong shared desire for peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. 

That is why New Zealand Defence Force personnel continue to participate in monitoring the armistice between North and South Korea in the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission.

It is why New Zealand strongly supports nuclear disarmament and opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

It is also why we work closely with the Republic of Korea in the organisations of the Asia-Pacific region.  We are seeking to build effective and inclusive organisations.  And we are seeking an effective mechanism for dialogue among countries. 

The deeper economic connections and integration in our Asia-Pacific region have to be underpinned by continuous work on and commitment to the international ground rules that support strategic stability.

New Zealand therefore strongly supports international efforts to manage and bring about a peaceful transition to a stable security environment on the Korean Peninsula.  Unfortunately, the Six Party Talks have been stalled since 2008.

New Zealand has kept open its lines of direct communication with North Korea.  We have encouraged North Korea to engage with the international community; to cease its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes; to readmit inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency; and improve its human rights situation.   

It is fair to say that in our dealings with North Korea we do not have a meeting of minds on these issues. 

Global Korea

Sixty years on from the Korean War, the Republic of Korea has come a very long way. 

On his recent visit to Seoul, World Bank President Jim Young Kim noted how the Republic of Korea’s gross national income of US$70 in 1953 had jumped to US$20,000 over the past six decades.

He also commented that the message of the Korean experience was that even countries facing the most extreme adversity can develop and prosper. 

Today, the Republic of Korea is an emergent middle power. 

  • It is the world’s 13th largest economy.
  • It has an impressive reputation for its industrial, scientific and technological innovation.
  • It has a rapidly growing aid budget. 
  • On the international stage, it takes a leadership role.  

New Zealand looks back with pride in having assisted the Republic of Korea’s early recovery and development; and with its entry in 1991 into the United Nations. We will be delighted to see Korea take up a seat on the UN Security Council in 2013.

Korea’s championing of sustainable green growth adds to its impressive image as a modern and responsible state.   Korea clearly intends to continue to be a leader in this area.  It recently announced that Songdo City will host the secretariat for the Global Climate Fund.

Korea has achieved this rapid development with a great deal of passion, grit and determination.  We in New Zealand admire this and can learn from it. 

Korea’s commitment today to share with other developing nations the lessons it learned from its own development is very welcome.  We hope to engage more closely with Korea on development assistance in other countries, especially the Pacific.

Bilateral Relationship

Korea’s national qualities are evident in our Korean community in New Zealand. With the arrival of many Koreans in the 1990s and early 2000s, that community today totals around 28,000. 

Included in their numbers are highly skilled people from many professions, community leaders, and not to forget the occasional spectacularly gifted world class golfer. 

Korean food and music, both traditional and modern, are becoming well known in New Zealand.  Indeed there is now a 4,000 strong association of K-Pop followers in New Zealand.  So the ‘Korean Wave’ is now becoming part of the Kiwi lifestyle.   

When New Zealand opened its Embassy in Seoul in 1971, two-way trade between us was around NZ$2 million.  That is dwarfed by the NZ$ 3.1 billion trade between us today.  This makes Korea New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner. 

Korea is also our second largest source of international students and, at 53,000 visitors per year, our seventh largest source of tourists.

Each year 1,800 young Koreans come to New Zealand under a Working Holiday Scheme. 

The New Zealand business and teaching community in Korea in return is growing, with around 1,500 New Zealanders teaching English in Korea.

Korea is a significant market for New Zealand primary products such as logs, beef, kiwifruit, dairy and seafood.  In return we buy Korean motor vehicles, trains, telecommunications and electrical goods, and petroleum oils and minerals.

There is no doubt that that there is significant potential in our economic relationship for diversification and growth.  

For example, Korea’s ageing population and focus on health and well-being make it an attractive market for functional foods, natural products, skincare, cosmetics, medical devices and health IT.

New Zealand’s capability in VFX is another niche area of interest in a market that has an exciting film and television sector and world-leading game industry.

Free Trade Agreement

This potential in our economic relationship with Korea is why the New Zealand Government is putting such an emphasis on having a Free Trade Agreement with Korea. 

An FTA would offer a broad range of benefits.  Not just in purely economic activity, but also for the socio-cultural interaction and people to people exchanges between New Zealand and Korea. 

An FTA will be mutually beneficial:

  • New Zealand will contribute to Korea’s food security and to its export competitiveness by providing a reliable supply of high quality, safe food and ingredients. 

It will break down regulatory behind the border barriers in order to make doing business easier and facilitate increased two-way investment.   

  • It will also provide a framework for broader cooperation, including in the fields of agricultural, tourism, education, employment, and the environment. 
  • And will create potential for far greater cooperation in building regional trade integration. 

A 21st Century Partnership

An FTA will be a significant new building block to add to those already created in recent years to take our bilateral relationship into a 21st century partnership.  These include:

  • The designation by New Zealand of Korea as an important science and innovation partner.   Collaborative research our Science and Technology Agreement has ranged from environmental science, biotechnology, information and communication technology, health robotics, materials science, nanotechnology, renewable energy, food innovation, to most recently green growth, Antarctic research, new medicines and medical applications.
  • Along with Australia we have both engaged in seven Broadband Summits where Korea’s global leadership in the development and commercialisation of new technologies meets New Zealand’s capabilities in research, software design and leveraging high technology.
  • We are about to see the first official Korea-New Zealand films made under a Film Cooperation Agreement.
  • This August we signed an Antarctic Cooperation Agreement that paves the way for increased logistical collaboration in Antarctica now that Korea will soon be our ‘neighbour’ in the Ross Dependency.
  • We often share perspectives on trade liberalisation of environmental goods and services as one response to climate change.  We cooperate in the Global Research Alliance and we are exploring the potential for linking our respective Emissions Trading Schemes.
  • Our two countries engage in dialogue on aid effectiveness.  Korea is increasing its development assistance, and hosted the High Level forum on Aid effectiveness in November 2011.  We are looking to cooperate with Korea in the Pacific in particular.
  • Our politicians and officials meet and talk regularly and share a great deal of common ground on the complex economic and security challenges facing our region and beyond.

Closing remarks

Ladies and gentlemen, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea have come a long way together in the sixty years since the Korean War and we are convinced that our two countries will achieve much more in partnership in the future.   Your perspectives on this will be valuable.   I therefore look forward to learning the outcome of your deliberations over the next two days. 

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address you this morning and to the New Zealand Asia Institute of the University of Auckland for arranging this conference.



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