President Barack Obama of the United States of America is scheduled to make an official visit to Korea on April 25-26, 2014 at the invitation of President Park Geun-hye. President Obama’s visit this time is of great significance in that it will be his first visit to Korea since the inauguration of the Park Geun-hye Administration and that it will be made in the beginning year of another six decades of the Korea-U.S. alliance. The visit also comes at an opportune time in light of the fluid situation recently unfolding on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. During the Korea-U.S. summit, the two leaders are expected to have in-depth discussions about issues of mutual interest. These will include measures to advance the comprehensive, strategic alliance between Korea and the United States and bilateral cooperation in regard to North Korea and the problem of its nuclear program as well as issues affecting Northeast Asia and the rest of the world.
Korea, Australia to strengthen cooperation on trade, security
President Park Geun-hye held summit talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on April 8 at Cheong Wa Dae. The two leaders shared their in-depth opinions about common issues of interest, such as the free trade agreement (FTA) and the security condition on the Korean Peninsula and across Northeast Asia. This is the second summit between the two leaders.
After the summit, they adopted a vision statement. Titled as the “Vision Statement on a Secure, Peaceful and Prosperous Future between the Republic of Korea and Australia,” it contains 22 clauses and sets a new milestone in the future direction of diplomatic cooperation between Korea and Australia.
In the statement, the two leaders expressed their will to closely cooperate on joint responses to various security challenges and discussed a blueprint for cooperation in security and defense. They agreed to strengthen cooperation in regional security forums through the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) and to make an effort toward joint Korea-Australia cooperation.
Both leaders also agreed to bolster cooperation on deregulation, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyberspace and security and peace keeping operations. They further agreed to substantially boost cooperation on national defense, especially in the areas of ocean security, humanitarian aid and disaster relief. President Park and Prime Minister Abbott also agreed to review the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to expand cooperation on national defense and to enhance cooperation on defense science technology and the defense industry.
In regard to North Korean issues, President Park said, “Both of us clearly reaffirmed that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is unacceptable and poses a grave threat to international peace and security, as well as peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. I explained to Prime Minister Abbott that cooperation and support from the international community is essential if Seoul is to open an era in which we can move toward peaceful unification. Prime Minister Abbott expressed his strong support for Seoul’s vision of unification and its North Korean policy.”
Prime Minister Abbott valued the fact that the Korea-Australia FTA is the first FTA signed by the Park Geun-hye administration and that his administration highly values the free trade pact. The Australian leader said that freer trade will benefit both countries and generate more jobs, which will improve the friendly relations. He said that the Korea-Australia FTA would be very important in further deepening and strengthening the already-strong economic bond.
The Australian leader said that he views bilateral relations as being greater than just an economic relationship, and that friendly relations can be possible only on the basis of shared values. For this reason, he expressed his gladness that the Korean government will participate in the New Colombo Plan starting next year. The New Colombo Plan supports Australian university students who are studying in countries across the Asia-Pacific region, helping them to boost their understanding and knowledge about Asia and become regional experts.
Dresden to build 'Korea Street'Thanks to President Park Geun-hye’s visit to Dresden, the capital of Saxony will now establish a street named after Korea. The Grunes Gewolbe, or Green Vault, a well-known historic museum in the city with one of the largest collections of treasures in Europe, has also begun offering an audio guide to its collection in Korean.
Cheong Wa Dae said at a briefing on March 30 that Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz told President Park that he will re-name a street in Dresden as “Korea Street.” The Dresden mayor made the announcement during a luncheon hosted by the prime minister of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich. The decision marks the friendship and cooperation between Korea and Germany and commemorates President Park’s visit to the city.
On the occasion of President Park’s Dresden visit, the Green Vault, located in Dresden Castle, began providing audio guide services in Korean, becoming the first major tourist attraction in the state to provide such services. President Park visited the Green Vault for the ceremony to mark the commencement of Korean language audio guide service before attending a banquet hosted by the prime minister of Saxony.
The Green Vault is located in Dresden Castle, built around the year 1200. Since that time, the castle has undergone various renovations to achieve today’s form. It was used as the king’s residence for nearly 400 years, from 1547 to 1918.
President Park visits the Netherlands, Germany
President Park Geun-hye returned home on March 29 after completing her seven-day trip to the Netherlands and Germany. This is her seventh overseas trip since inauguration, and the second overseas visit this year.
During her trip, President Park attended the Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague on March 24 and 25 where she also held trilateral summit talks with leaders from the U.S. and Japan. During the summits, President Park and world leaders reaffirmed the principles of jointly dealing with North Korean nuclear arms issues and that the country must give up its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable, irreversible and complete way. She also made progress on the resumption of six-party talks concerning the North Korean nuclear missiles issue.
President proposes vision of a world without nukes
President Park proposed her vision of a world without nuclear weapons in her keynote speech at the opening session of the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 24. The president made a four-point proposal to strengthen the international nuclear nonproliferation framework. Her proposals include taking an integrated approach on nuclear security, nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation, establishing regional mechanisms to guarantee nuclear security, bolstering international cooperation to improve nuclear security capabilities among countries, and, finally, taking measures to cope with cyber terrorism that might target nuclear facilities.
The president firmed up international support to resolve the North Korean nuclear arms issue among the participating world leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit, where she declared her belief that denuclearization should begin on the Korean Peninsula. She also helped in the production of the nuclear security summit`s final report. Together with the U.S. and the Netherlands, Korea played a leading role in writing, “Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation.”
President states desire for peaceful reunification of Korea
During the three-day state visit to Germany from March 26 to 28, President Park laid the foundation for bilateral cooperation on unification and in other sectors. Germany is one of Korea’s strongest partners in terms of peaceful unification and the creative industries. During summit talks with German President Joachim Gauck and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, they all agreed that Germany would share its experiences of unification and socio-economic integration with Korea by building multiple layers of cooperation between the two countries.
In this regard, Korea and Germany agreed to bolster the activities of the Korea-Germany Joint Consultation Committee so that Germany would be able to share with Korea its experience of unification. The two countries also agreed to form cooperation networks involving financial authorities and economic policy research institutes in order to systemically study economic integration and the financial issues surrounding German unification.
In the former East German city of Dresden on March 28, President Park announced her vision of a peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula. At a ceremony awarding her with an honorary doctorate from the Dresden University of Technology, she presented three steps to North Korea that it must take in order to help move toward reunification, winning international support for her vision of a new Korea. These steps include boosting people-to-people exchanges between the two Koreas, planning for prosperity through systemic, sustainable cooperation between North and South and, finally, boosting cooperation and exchanges between Pyongyang, Seoul and international organizations. The president announced that her administration will usher in an era of peaceful unification with the establishment of a presidential committee that will prepare for unification.
DMZ to become symbol of peace: President
President Park Geun-hye visited the Berlin Wall on March 27, a symbol of Germany’s unification and freedom.
Looking at the wall`s paintings while walking 20 meters along the East Side Gallery, President Park said, “I have a vision of Korea’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) becoming a symbol of peace.” The president agreed with the chairman of the Artists Initiative, Kani Alavi, who hoped that such an exhibition could be held one day in Korea’s DMZ. President Park said she would work hard to make that day come true.
Situated in central Berlin, the East Side Gallery, part of the Berlin Wall destroyed in 1989, is a 1.3 kilometer-long open-air exhibition venue where wall paintings by 118 artists from 21 countries are shown. It used to be considered a place of tragic separation and pain, but it has become a place of joy and pride thanks to unification.
Guided by Chairman Alavi, President Park visited a photo exhibition titled “Beyond the Border” at the Grunes Band, an area of the border which used to separate the eastern and western halves of Germany, equivalent to Korea`s DMZ. Since unification, this border area has become an ecological park, overcoming the painful separation and successfully transforming itself into an area of peace and nature. The photo exhibition will last until April 7.
“This place now represents hope and pride thanks to the unification of Germany. It is very meaningful to host an exhibition on the DMZ here, as this area has become a symbol of unification and freedom, overcoming the painful division,” said the president.
President Park was accompanied by Achim Freyer, a German stage and opera director and producer. The world-renowned artist dramatically escaped from East Germany in 1972. He pioneered so-called “pansori opera” in 2011 when he directed “Sugungga,” one of the five well-known Korean traditional pansori epic songs, at the National Theater of Korea. Other influential figures in German culture and arts, including the director of the National Gallery in Berlin, Udo Kittelmann, were also present during President Park’s visit to the photo exhibition.
The exhibition is composed of four parts. The first and second parts show photos related to the DMZ and to the national separation of Korea, the Grunes Band and Germany’s separation and unification. The third part shows works created by Korean artists concerning the issues of national separation and unification. The final part displays “Flash Wall,” an installation piece by Korean artist Park Gi-won made with silver wire, cotton balls and post cards carrying messages of hope.
The exhibition also shows some photos taken by world-famous photographers, including Alfred Eisenstaedt of LIFE Magazine, David Douglas Duncan who published a photograph collection on the Korean War (1950-1953), “This is War,” and Robert Capa, who founded Magnum Photos. It also involves many Korean photographers, including the founder of the Photo Artist Society of Korea Lim Eung-sik, DMZ photographer Choi Byung-kwan, Kim Nyungman, who used to take photos in Panmunjom, the inter-Korean truce village, and Lim In-sik, a war photojournalist from the Korean War.
The exhibition holds significance as it is being held at a venue which symbolizes the unification and freedom of Germany, a country that experienced separation and achieved unification, said Cheong Wa Dae. The president`s office said that this exhibition brings a message of hope that the DMZ could also become a place of unification and co-existence, no longer being a space of conflict and division.