By Ms. Park So-yeon, The Korea Post staff reporter
Minister of Land, Infrastructure & Transport Kang Hoin, Rep. Shim Jae-kwon (chairman of the National Assemby Foreign Affairs-Unification Committee) and Commanding General Vincent K. Brooks of the Nited Nationsl Command/United States Forces Korea/United States-Republic of Korea Combined Forces Command (UNC/USFK/US-ROK CFC) were among the distinguished guests attendig the the National Day of Turkey celebration at the Crystall Ballroom of Lotte Hotel in Seoul Oct. 28, 2016.
There also were many other distinguished guests from various other segments of Korean society as well as from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps (SDC)—literally filling the 800-man capacity ballroom of the hotel to the brims.
Among the estimated hundreds of members of the SDC were many mission chiefs who included Ambassadors Krzysztof Majka of Poland, Alexander Andreevich Tomonin of Russia, Gonzalo Ortiz Diaz-Tortosa of Spain, Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia and Botirjon Asadov of Uzbekistan. (See list of ambassadors and other VIP guests on the main photo of the dignitaries on the stage.)
General Brooks was looked upon by many Korean guests that night with added attention compared with other times in view of the tensions growing on the Korean peninsula following North Korea’s detonation of its fifth nuclear test bomb on Sept. 9, 2016—plus the on-going political unrest prevailing in the South due to the loss of popularity on the party of President Park Geun-hye whose approval rating came as low down as to mere four (repeat four) percent and her disapproval rating going well beyond 90%.
There was a widespread sense of unrest in Korea in the midst of political instability reminiscent of the April of 1960 when the popular uprising toppled the then dictorial regime of the late President Syngman Rhee.
Against this backdrop, General Books that night was surrounded by many Korean guests, including this writer (publisher of The Korea Post), who might have wanted to hear something like, “Don’t worry friends, we are here and they can’t hurt you.”
The Republic of Turkey was one of the strongest supporters of South Korea during the Korean War sending one infantry brigade, largest after the Uinted States and the United Kingdom, to Korea to fight on the side of the South Korea in her defense of freedom and democracy as well as her people.
Speaking to the guests at the party, Ambassador Okcal said:
“The participation of the Turkish troops in the Korean War has transformed our friendship into a unique ‘blood brotherhood.’ The Turkish people always take pride in the fact that our soldiers fought in the Korean War defending democracy and freedoms. We appreciate the fact that Turkey's sacrifices during the war have never been forgotten by the noble Korean people. Our feelings towards each other are mutual. I can assure you that Koreans also have a very special place in the hearts of the Turkish people.” (See text of speech at toward the end of this report.)
Together with the presence of General Brooks, Ambassador Okcal’s reassurance of suppor and asstance for the Korean people was accorded with as pecial attention from the Korean guests at the party.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Okcal:
Thank you very much for honoring the Turkish national day reception which marks the foundation of the Republic of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
I am truly honored by the high number of attendance. I am particularly grateful for the kind participation of the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, His Excellency Kang Hoin, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the Korean National Assembly, His Excellency Shim Jae-kwon and Commander of UNC/USFK/US-ROK CFC General Vincent Brooks.
As we celebrate the 93rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish nation looks back to a proud history of reforms and achievements that transformed the country into a regional power. The Republic of Turkey after 93 years of its foundation is a source of inspiration for many nations around the world.
I will try to be as brief as I can be. I want to allude to three points, not more:
i)The coup attempt and terror attacks we faced this year,
ii) The ongoing crisis situation in the Middle East and the refugee problem we face,
iii) The good relations we enjoy with Korea and the 2017 Turkey-Korea Year.
2016 will go into the annals of history as a difficult and tumultuous year for Turkey. As the year draws to a close and hopefully without any upsetting incidents more, as you all know, we became target of multiple terror organizations who wanted end our democracy, disrupt and ruin our economy, derail our progress and divide our country into ethnic, religious and ideological fiefdoms. While homegrown and international terrorists belonging to DAESH/ISIS and PKK and its derivatives attacked civilians and security forces killing scores of innocent people in our metropolitan cities and rural communities, the Fetullah Terror Organization, or better known as FETO, staged a bloody coup attempt on July 15th that claimed around 250 civilian lives who were protesting against the coup plotters.
Perhaps the most upsetting was the coup plot since nobody was expecting such a brutal treason from our own officers who were supposed to protect the people and its legitimate representatives under their sworn constitutional duties. These coup plotters, a minority group within the armed forces and other institutions, who sold out their souls to FETO, had managed to infiltrate the state apparatus in a long period of time. Among other edifices of state, they also bombed the Turkish Grand National Assembly with Turkish built F-16 fighter jets, the very sacred institution where 93 years ago Atatürk and his friends had proudly proclaimed the Republic in pursuit of a modern country. They tried to assassinate the elected President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and topple the legitimate Government.
We take consolation that the coup plotters met with a strong opposition across the political spectrum and defeated in a few hours by the massive reaction of the Turkish people who took to the streets heeding the call of the President and stopped the tanks and machine guns with their bare hands. This attests to the strong democratic credentials of the Turkish people.
We are pleased that the Korean Government was prompt in condemning the coup attempt and expressing its solidarity with the Turkish democracy.
Turkey bears the negative effects of the ongoing crisis situation in the Middle East in many ways. The wars in neighboring Syria and Iraq pose severe security and instability threats to Turkey. Turkey will continue to protect its people and fulfill its responsibilities as an international coalition partner to defeat the terrorists and uphold the territorial integrity of both countries. As I said on many occasions we are hosting around three million refugees from Syria and other countries, for many years against all odds. We are determined to embrace and protect these displaced people fleeing brutal persecution and sheer death. This is our unwavering pledge.
Turkey has never relented against terrorists. Regardless of their ideology, orientation and goals, they are all doomed to be defeated.
We are rapidly healing our wounds. Normalcy has returned to my beautiful country. Turkey is as secure and vibrant as ever.
Turkey and Korea have always enjoyed excellent relations since the inception of their relations which go back to a distant history.
The participation of the Turkish troops in the Korean War has transformed our friendship into a unique “blood brotherhood”. The Turkish people always take pride in the fact that our soldiers fought in the Korean War defending democracy and freedoms. We appreciate the fact that Turkey's sacrifices during the war have never been forgotten by the noble Korean people. Our feelings towards each other are mutual. I can assure you that Koreans also have a very special place in the hearts of the Turkish people.
Today Turkey and Korea are “strategic partners" enjoying excellent relations and working together within world bodies such as the UN, G20, OECD and the recently established group MIKTA for a better world. The Turkey-Korea FTA is one of the broadest agreements that Turkey signed with another nation. I am pleased note that trade and human contacts are flourishing between our countries overcoming all negative conjectural, regional and global influences. As Korean investments are steadily increasing in Turkey -a strong indication of confidence for the Turkish economy- we must do more for a balanced trade which is hovering around 8 billion US Dollars in the longer run. I am sure this goal can be achieved given the high potential and robust qualities of both economies.
Last year I spoke about Hyundai Motor Company's production increase in their Izmit plant. This year I would like to point out to two outstanding projects/investments. The first one is the CJ E&M group's investment around 800 million US Dollars in the booming Turkish media and entertainment sector. I am sure that the marriage of these two strong national industries which influence broader audiences will bring plenty of benefits to all markets that they are active in and set better standards.
The second project that I want to talk about is the Eurasia Tunnel that will be inaugurated in 20 December 2016. This two layered road tunnel which connects the European and Asian continents under the Bosphorus Strait is an engineering masterpiece achieved by Turkish and Korean partnership. I would like to congratulate the SK E&C company and their Turkish partner Yapı Merkezi for their achievement.
2017 has been designated as the "Turkey-Korea Year" in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries. We are looking forward to 2017 for year long activities in the cultural, academic, economic, social, diplomatic realms for enhancing our relations even more.
As we are celebrating the 93rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, let me stress my strong belief that the future holds optimism and more expectations for our brotherly relations with Korea. As “blood brothers”, Turkey and Korea will continue to collaborate with each other in all fields to further develop and prosper and also to contribute to the international community for promoting peace and stability in their regions and beyond.
I hope I was as brief as I promised. In respect to the martyrs who lost their lives in defense of our democracy and the numerous innocent victims of terror attacks, we are avoiding a celebratory mood in our reception this year. But please do enjoy the food, especially the Turkish food.