It has been 93 years since The Republic of Turkey was founded on 29 October 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. As we are celebrating 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. Today, The Republic of Turkey has become a source of inspiration for many nations around the world.
Located at the crossroads of the old world (Europe, Asia and Africa) and acting as a bridge between Asia and Europe, present day Turkey and all preceding civilizations located in Anatolia and in the Balkan territories have always played an important role throughout history. This geostrategic piece of land has not only been the birthplace of many great civilizations but also served as a stage for turbulent political developments that had affects far beyond its region.
2016 will go into the annals of history as another difficult and tumultuous year for the region. This year Turkey became the target of multiple terror organizations who wanted end democracy, disrupt and ruin economy, derail our progress and divide the 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 FETO, staged a bloody coup attempt on July 15th that claimed around 250 civilian lives who were protesting against the coup plotters.
The coup plotters, a minority group within the armed forces and other institutions, had managed to infiltrate the state apparatus in a long period of time. They bombed the Turkish Grand National Assembly and other state edifices with Turkish built F-16 fighter jets, tried to kill 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 also pleased that the Korean Government was prompt in condemning the coup attempt and expressing its solidarity with the Turkish democracy.
Today, Turkey is rapidly healing its wounds. Normalcy has quickly returned and it is as secure and vibrant as ever. Before looking at modern Turkey and what future holds for Turkish-Korean relations, I would like to give you a brief background information on Turkey’s history and culture.
Surrounded by sea on three sides, Turkey’s mainland Anatolia has witnessed mass migrations of diverse people shaping the course of history for thousands of years. Known as the cradle of civilizations, Anatolia has developed a unique synthesis of cultures, each with its own distinct identity, connecting past and upcoming civilizations throughout its long history.
Anatolia is home to the oldest known settlements in the world. For instance, the ancient settlement recently discovered in Göbekli Tepe (Potbelly Hill) near today's Şanlıurfa, is believed to be built in around 9000 BC, predating the discovery of metals, pottery or even the wheel. From the days of Göbekli Tepe up to the present, Turkey boasts a rich culture that, through centuries, has left a lasting imprint on modern culture. The legacy of all those admirable civilizations renders Turkey a paradise of information and cultural wealth. Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Urartians, Lycians, Lydians, Ionians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans have all made important contributions to the Anatolian history. As a modern nation living in an ancient land, the Turkish people today is both the inheritor and conservator of this common heritage of mankind.
It was the Seljuks of Oguz Turks who opened the gates of Anatolia to the migrating Turkish masses with the Battle of Manzikert (Malazgirt) fought against the crumbling Byzantine Empire in Eastern Anatolia in 1071. Adopting Konya as their capital at the heart of the country, the Anatolian Seljuk Kingdom (known also as Seljuk Roman Kingdom) ruled Anatolia from 11th century until mid-13th century, shaping and embellishing this land with beautiful hallmark edifices in every location.
The small but powerful Ottoman Principality (Beylik), founded in the last days of the 13th century in North-Western Anatolia on the confines of the fading Byzantine State soon became one of the greatest world empires that history witnessed. Reaching its apogee in the sixteenth century under a succession of brilliant sultans, the Ottoman Empire not only ruled over a landmass that was only second to the Roman Empire on three Continents, it created its own unique art and culture with its beautiful architecture, music, literature and decorative arts. The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire such as Mehmet the Second (Fatih), Selim the First (Yavuz), Suleyman the Magnificent (Kanuni) were not only brilliant soldiers and statesmen, but also highly educated intellectuals who wrote poetry, composed music and were generous patrons of arts.
As the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the First World War together with the German, Austria-Hungarian and Russian Empires, a brilliant young officer who already had become the hero of the Gallipoli War, Mustafa Kemal, led the Liberation War against foreign invasion. This visionary leader, who was later bestowed by the Turkish Parliament with the name Atatürk, meaning “the father of all Turks”, founded the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923. Under his leadership Turkey embraced modernization based on contemporary values. Economic and social development went hand in hand with development in all forms of art.
Modern Turkey is a secular parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law. It is a founding member of the UN and the Council of Europe, OSCE, OECD and member of NATO and G20. Turkey is also an accession candidate of the European Union.
The Turkish society can be characterized by youth and dynamism. According to 2015 population census, Turkey has 78 million inhabitants. Due to the high level of education, Turkey has a highly skilled young population.
Istanbul, which served as the capital of Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, is a vibrant modern metropolis bearing beautiful hallmarks of its rich past. The modern city of Ankara, which was always an important ancient silk-road settlement on the other hand, is the capital of Turkey located at the center of the country.
With 40 million foreign visitors a year, Turkey is world's 6th most popular tourism destination. Not only because of its pristine beaches, state of the art facilities and hotels and delicious food from its world famous cuisine, but also because of its diverse cultural and archeological wealth, such as Istanbul's historical peninsula with the Topkapi Palace, the Ayasofya Museum and the Blue Mosque, the Atatürk Mausoleum and Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, ancient settlements of Cappadocia in the heartland of the country and Ephesus, Troy, Miletus, Didim, Side and Aspendos along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, to name only a few, Turkey has countless marvels to offer to the discerning visitor. Turkey hosted 223,000 Korean tourists last year.
The Turkish society has a strong tradition of religious diversity and tolerance. Although an overwhelming majority of Turkish people are Muslim, Turkey is a secular state by its constitution guaranteeing freedom of belief.
The Turkish economy has shown spectacular development in the recent decades. As of 2015, Turkey is world’s 17th, Europe’s 7th biggest economy with a GDP of 1,54 trillion Dollars. According to World Bank, its per capita GPD is 19.618 Dollars (PPP) as of 2015.
Despite the great geographical distance between Turkey and South Korea, the two countries have a historical relationship which dates back to the Goguryeo and Göktürk Kingdoms when they were believed to be neighbors before the Turks migrated to the West. This historical friendship has been revived during the Korean War in 1950 when around 20,000 Turkish soldiers fought alongside South Korea in defense of its independence under the UN flag. The participation of the Turkish troops in the Korean War has transformed the strong bonds between Turkey and Korea into a unique friendship that we call today “blood brotherhood”.
The relations between S. Korea and Turkey have considerably matured in the years after the war. Turkey was one of the first countries to open an Embassy in Seoul. Diplomatic relations between the two countries has been established in March 1957. In 2012, the two countries decided to elevate their ties to ‘strategic partnership’.
Today, Turkey and Korea have very strong and close ties at every level. Turkey and Korea founded the MIKTA group in 2013 together with Mexico, Australia and Indonesia, bringing their international cooperation to further heights. Turkey and Korea are cooperating closely in various international fora such as the UN bodies as well as the G20 and MIKTA for a better world.
On the economic front, Turkey-Korea Free Trade Agreement is the broadest FTA that Turkey has ever signed with another nation. Trade and human contacts are flourishing between the two countries. The bilateral trade volume between the two countries has surpassed USD $7,6 billion last year with an estimated USD $1,5 billion of Korea’s direct investment in Turkey. There are about 300 Korean companies of various sizes doing businesses in the fields of energy, media and entertainment, retailing, automobile manufacturing, steel, transportation, communication, tourism and infrastructure.
As 2017 will be the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Korea, both countries have designated this year as the ‘Turkey-Korea Year’ reciprocally. It will be celebrated with a series of cultural, diplomatic, academic, social and economic events in both countries.
The Turkish-Korean cooperation is expected to grow and strengthen further in every field in the coming years bringing mutual benefits to both countries.