PM speaks at the launch of the Canada Korea Foundation

Coquitlam, British Columbia
21 February 2011

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. 

First I want to welcome His Excellency, Republic of Korea Consul General Choi, and of course all my colleagues from the Parliament of Canada. 

I also want to give a special thank you to my introducer, Minister Kenney. I think he should be recognized for all the incredible work he does to help Canada’s ethnocultural communities, not just our Korean community, but all of our communities, and new Canadians generally, feel at home.

And thank you, all of you, for inviting me to the launch of the Canada Korea Foundation. This is a great occasion, and one I feel deeply can only do good things in terms of moving the relationship between Canada and Korea forward.

Let me also pay tribute to the Korean and Canadian veterans of the Korean War who are with us. The presence of these gentlemen is a testament to the deep bonds of friendship between our countries, and to our greater, long-standing alliance in the cause of freedom, democracy and justice.

It is our enduring hope that the curse of tyranny will one day be lifted from North Korea, so that the people of the North and the South can all enjoy peace and prosperity.

Thank you, gentlemen, for what you all did 60 years ago.

I want to pay special greetings to a couple of my Parliamentary colleagues who have done a lot of outstanding work on Canada-Korea relations.

First the Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Barry Devolin, who spent years living and teaching in South Korea. As co-chair
of the Canada-Korea Interparliamentary Association, he is one of Parliament’s strongest links to the Republic of Korea.

I also want to give special acknowledgement as well to my friend and colleague who played an instrumental role in setting up the Foundation, Senator Yonah Kim-Martin. Senator Kim-Martin is the first Canadian of
Korean heritage to serve in our Parliament. And I’m very proud to say
that she does so as a member of our Government.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Canada Korea Foundation could not have been established at a better time. Roughly 200,000 Canadians now trace their ancestry to the Korean peninsula. By hard work and perseverance, many have achieved great success, earning acclaim here in business, science, medicine, the arts, sports and government.

Indeed, the founding directors of the Canada Korea Foundation are cases in point.

First of all, as president, and managing director of RCI Capital Group,  John Park leads a company that is the largest manager of immigrant investor capital in Canada. Through his leadership, and through its partnership with the Korea Development Bank, RCI is also a conduit for Korean investment in Canadian natural resources and energy products.

You may be aware that during my 2009 trip to South Korea, I became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.  I must tell you that with John’s good advice and local knowledge, he contributed enormously to the success of that visit.

Second, there is Charles Kim, who is President of Trans-Pacific Fibre Inc., and a fellow student of the dismal science of economics. He is building markets in Asia for Canadian forest products. 

Charles got his start selling lumber to sawmills in Quebec and New Brunswick. But it was his success selling Canadian wood into the Asia-Pacific region that earned him one of Ernst and Young’s prestigious awards as a 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Dr. Doo Ho Shin has been serving as a physician in B.C. for 30 years, both as a partner in B.C. Bio Medical Laboratories Ltd. and as a general pathologist with Fraser Health.

Beyond his work in health – and when he’s not instructing skiing or
climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – Dr. Shin has given freely of himself to his community, including his present service on our Government’s National Seniors Council.

These accomplished gentlemen have already made enormous contributions to their communities and to our country. But through the Canada Korea Foundation, they aspire to do even more.

You have big dreams, and you should. We all wish you well in your efforts to build and strengthen relations  between Canada and the Republic of Korea, and to help our Government overcome any obstacles to Canada and South Korea realizing our full potential as friends, allies and trading partners.

Now of course, we have certainly come a long way. Look at some encouraging facts.

South Korea is our seventh largest export customer and our seventh largest  supplier of imports.

Bilateral trade hit $9.8 billion in 2010, and held up remarkably well right through the global recession.

Natural resources lead our exports to Korea. Our export of services is also growing. Meanwhile, South Korea is sending us more high-end manufactured goods.  Its direct investment in Canada has grown from a mere $400 million in 2005, to a very healthy $2.7 billion in 2009.

Tourist traffic between our countries is booming in both directions, as are educational exchanges. There are about 26,000 Koreans pursuing full time studies here and roughly 10,000 Canadians who now live in Korea, the vast majority teaching English  as a second language.

So we already have momentum.

Our government’s task , and that to which your Foundation has committed itself, is for us to take what we have already achieved and make it bigger and better. That is what we are going to do.

For example, the Foundation has a marketing strategy to attract more Korean students to Canadian universities. Our Government has invested heavily in knowledge infrastructure, and we expect that these investments will make our universities and colleges more attractive to international students, including Korean students. We see great value in that. As the Foundation rightly points out, increasing the number of Korean students in Canada can only lead to a stronger social and economic relationship between our two countries.

You also advocate a Canada-Korea energy strategy. This too is a worthy, practical and achievable objective.

Our two countries are already committed to renewable energy development, and South Korea looks to Canada as a secure, stable and reliable source of energy to fuel its economic growth. At the same time, Korea has much to offer Canada in the field of renewable energy technologies.

Obviously, we face challenges to connect South Korea and other Asia-Pacific markets to our vast supplies of oil and natural gas. But there are powerful economic and energy security incentives to solve them and the growing Korean investment in Canada’s natural resource sector indicates growing confidence that solutions will be found. This is an important long-term objective for our government.

Two years ago, I made this point to the Korean Parliament, that economic power and human prosperity are spreading from West to East and that Canada is uniquely positioned to serve both hemispheres.

Trans-Pacific trade will play a larger part in Canada’s future economic growth.

It would be hard to find two countries better suited to each other as trading partners than Canada and the Republic of Korea.  Korea should be one of Canada’s most important regional partners.

Canada has the resources Korea needs. Korea has a genius for manufacturing.  Canada has a world-class financial services sector. Korean industry needs access to capital, and the journey by sea from Asia to Canada’s Pacific Gateway ports, in which we are investing so much, is shorter by days than to those further south.

It all lines up. Canada and Korea can be the model for bringing the economies of the East and the West together. 

Together, we can lead in the quest for a more balanced world, a more equitable world, and a more prosperous world. And our Government looks forward to working with this new organization, the Canada Korea Foundation, in pursuit of these goals.

Now before I relinquish the podium, I want to share this one recollection from my 2009 visit to Korea.

It is actually one of the most striking recollections I have had in any visit anywhere in the world.

The Republic of Korea is an incredible country, one of the most spectacular successes in the history of humanity.

It is hard to believe that when these veterans fought there, that that country was not only resisting brutal subjugation, it was also one of the poorest countries on the face of the earth.

There is an eerie reminder of that which I visited: The Demilitarized Zone which separates North Korea from South Korea.

There are certain places in the world, where the folly of ideas that oppress people, comes to life. The DMZ is one of them. In fact, it may be the most extreme example ever.

On the south side of the zone are bustling factories, where healthy, hard-working people make televisions, computers, ships, cars, electronics and so many of the things that modern society not only needs, but enjoys.

High-rise towers glisten in the early morning sun. There are shopping malls,  and restaurants. And there are throngs of commuters with the traffic jams that go with it. The people have not only a hopeful future, they also have an abundant present.

On the other side of the wire, just yards away, they make nuclear weapons. They can do that, but cannot feed their people.

There are no traffic jams, because there are not enough cars to make one if you want to. A stunted, malnourished people have nothing - no wealth, no rights and no hope.

These two countries share an identical culture, and left the starting line at the same time.  The South chose freedom; the North got communism. One is now a force for peace; the other for hostility and the threat of war without end. One is rich, while the other cannot even keep the lights on at night.

You do not have to argue about whether freedom works. You just have to look. I remember thinking, “How good for us, that South Korea chose freedom and chose to be our friend.”

Congratulations once again on the launch of the Foundation. Thank you for the opportunity to participate. I wish you all success in the future.