By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Vice Chairman Jang Chang-yong, Editor Kevin Lee
Ambassador Theresa Dizon De Vega of the Republic of Philippines in Seoul hosted a gala reception on June 8 at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul celebrating the 125th anniversary of Independence from Spain. An unprecedentedly large number of Korean and international guests, especially the ambassadors with their spouses attended the reception in Seoul in recent years for a National Day reception in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic in Korea and almost in all another countries of the world.
Among the Korean guests were Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Youngsam and among the international gusts were many ambassadors with their spouse, who included Ambassadors Paul Duclos of Peru, Thant Sin of Myanmar and Saeed Koozechi of Iran. Ambassador Koozechi of Iran has very recently arrived in Seoul.
The gala reception, in the opinion of many guests that evening, made many guests say in their hearts, “Wow, this is the largest National Day celebration this year!”
Yes, they were right. The spacious Regency Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt was literally “filled to the brims” with ambassadors, their spouses, and leaders of various segments of Korean society, including the government, business circles and various other segments of the Korean society.
From the mass communications media came many publishers and editors from prestigious news media publications, who included Publisher Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications, with Vice Chairman Jang Chang-yong and Editor Kevin Lee.
Ambassador Dizon De Vega won very warm responses from the Korean and international guests for her wonderful remarks on the occasion.
The Philippines is a long-time partner of the Republic of Korea. A year after establishing diplomatic relations with ROK on March 3rd, 1949--the first state in the ASEAN and the fifth in the world to do so--the Philippines dispatched 7,420 soldiers to join a United Nations effort in defending the freedom and sovereignty of the ROK during the Korean War. Since then, relations between the two countries have flourished in various areas of cooperation.
These ties were recognized as comprehensive cooperation twenty-one years ago, and the two Republics have enhanced it as a strategic partnership.
As of 2021, ROK was the seventh largest trade partner of the Philippines, and it was also the year when negotiations for the PH-ROK FTA were concluded. Its signing was a highly anticipated development.
Moreover, the influence of Korean Wave or Hallyu in the daily life of the Filipino people is manifest in the popularity of K-drama, K-pop, and even cuisine and cosmetics, all of which have contributed to a heightened interest in Korea, including a marked increase in the number of Filipinos visiting Korea for tourism.
Others, like students and scholars, are given the opportunity by the Korean government to pursue higher education or take part in various programs in Korea, through the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS), or via a wide spectrum of capacity building programs supported by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
President Yoon Suk-Yeol and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. first met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summits in November 2022 and exchanged their views on further strengthening cooperation in various fields including political and economic relations, infrastructure, defense industry, and energy.
The two countries have certainly been through troubled times, including the Korean War, destructive natural calamities, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. The two countries survived all of these and they thrived not only because of an invaluable partnership but more importantly because of a deep friendship. As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
The Independence Day of the Philippines has a very special meaning, not only to the Filipinos but also to many other countries of the world, especially the Republic of Korea for whom the Republic of the Philippines is a blood-forged ally joining the defense of South Korea from armed domination by North Korea and its allies.
According to the Embassy of Philippines in Seoul, bilateral relations between the two countries started on 3 March 1949 when the Philippines became the fifth country to recognize the Republic of Korea, which was inaugurated on 15 August 1948.
The friendship was cemented by the Philippine deployment of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) during the Korean War in the 1950s to help South Korea defend itself from the invasion of the North.
After the Armistice, the ROK sent H.E. Kim Yong-Ki as its first Ambassador to the Philippines on 19 January 1954. In May of the same year, the Philippines established a legation in the ROK led by Minister Tomas de Castro, who was appointed as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Philippines in the country.
In 1958, the Philippines opened an Embassy in Seoul under Ambassador Eduardo Quintero. The relationship blossomed in the course of the decades through cooperation in both bilateral and multilateral fronts. In the multilateral setting, they are now cooperating closely in the UN, FEALAC, ASEM, APEC, ARF, EAS and ASEAN+3.
Korea is currently a major trading partner of the Philippines. In 2006, the ROK was the top sender of visitors to the country, with more than half a million arrivals. Both governments have instituted various agreements at the bilateral level, including, for labor, the Employment Permit System. Cooperation between the two countries in the political, security, economic, socio-cultural and development fields is expected to continue as both parties strive to further strengthen relations.
The Philippines is an active supporter of the inter-Korean peace process and reconciliation efforts. It joins the international call for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as a crucial step for the security and continued economic development of the region and strongly advocates a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear issue, particularly through multilateral dialogue.
High-level policy consultations between the Philippines and South Korea are done on a regular basis.
Filipino General Carlos Romulo, who was the president of the UN General Assembly when the Korean War broke out in 1950, staunchly advocated the international defense of South Korea. "The application of military sanctions in Korea is in itself an act of the greatest significance," he said before the Assembly on 25 September 1950, reflecting on the decision of the Security Council to take military action in the peninsula and on the need to strengthen collective action against acts of aggression.
"The Philippine Government, for its part, has given concrete proof of its support of the principle of collective security by sending troops to help the UN forces in Korea," he added, referring to the first of five battalion combat teams from the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK), which rushed to Busan only six days earlier on 19 September 1950.
The relations between the Philippines and South Korea have always been characterized by such mutual trust and support. Bilateral relations between the two countries started on 3 March 1949 when the Philippines became the fifth country to recognize South Korea.
The Philippines sent 7,420 soldiers to South Korea over a five-year period, among them former President Fidel Ramos and two former ambassadors to South Korea. Today, the Philippine Embassy commemorates their sacrifices every September at the Philippine Monument in Goyang City and in Yeoncheon County, where two memorials were erected in the 1960s to honor their courage and bravery during the Battle of Yultong.
The Korean War is actually enshrined in the Philippine currency. At the back of the P500 bill (around KRW12,000) is a picture of our hero, Benigno Aquino, Jr. Aquino was a war correspondent during the Korean War, and beside his picture is one of his articles entitled "First Cavalry Knifes Through 38th Parallel."
Aquino is the father of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, the 15th president of the Philippines.
In the Philippines, two monuments about the Korean War attest to the longstanding ties between the two countries--the PEFTOK Memorial in Manila and the Marikorea Monument in Marikina City, where our soldiers trained before deployment to South Korea.
For over 60 years, the Philippines and South Korea nurtured this friendship, a partnership that began with military collaboration and lives on to this day in the form of deeper and more comprehensive cooperation in diverse areas such as trade, political-security concerns and socio-cultural exchanges.
The Philippines and South Korea continue to stand side-by-side, proud of their shared history, committed to regional peace, and united by a common future of sustainable progress and stability.