Ambassador Manisha Gunasekera of Sri Lanka said, “We welcome the steady progress made in collaboration between Korea and Sri Lanka under the Western Region Megapolis Plan in the context of the MOU signed with Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and we also welcome Korean investment in key sectors and projects in Sri Lanka.”
Ambassador Gunasekera made the remarks in her welcome speech at a reception she hosted at the Atrium of the Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel on Feb. 7, 2018 to celebrate the 70th National Day of Sri Lanka. (See text of speech toward the end of this article.)
Offhand, the venue may merit a mention. The Atrium was not the Atrium it used to be. To the surprise of many guests, it was the much-favored and more-spacious ‘Orangerie Ballroom,’ which used to attract a lot of diplomatic functions. The reason?
Unlike other hotels, Millennium Seoul Hilton offered no parking problem as it had as many as five floors totally reserved for the visitors’ cars. Too, many guests from the Gangnam boom town do not have to worry about the 2,000 won toll gate charged to motorists passing through the Namsan Tunnel.
The Sri Lankan reception attracted a lot of important guests. Among them were Ambassador Park Enna of Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rep. Jeong Kab-yoon, Korean Honorary Consul Kim Im-Kweon in Busan who concurrently was chairman of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperation. There also was popular Actress Ms. Lee Young-ae, famous for her leading role in the Daejanggeum drama series at the MBC TV.
There also were other important guests who included President Cho Dong-Sung of Incheon National University and Chairman Yoon Chang-Woon of the Korea-Sri Lanka Economic Cooperation Committee (president of Kolon Global).
In contrast with other hotels, General Manager Jay Kim of the Millennium Seoul Hilton was there all but from the beginning to the end to make sure everything went right. Assigned recently, GM Kim took particular interest in serving the ambassadors and other international dignitaries whereas his farther was also a seasoned Korean diplomat who was promoted to the vice minister of foreign affairs in Korea after serving as Korean ambassador to Germany, Italy, Ireland and other important countries.
The food and beverage were among the best at diplomatic functions at the top-notch hotels in Seoul, which included prawns, favorites for Korean guests, which were literally everywhere at the venue, to the delight of many gourmets.
Coke, which was not available at some of the other hotels, was ready for anyone and everyone at the Millennium Seoul Hilton.
Then came a congratulatory speech by Ambassador Park Enna for Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was the guest of honor at the party.
She said, “To the Korean people, Sri Lanka is famous for its rich and varied heritage including many architectural treasures, Kandy’s UNESCO-rated Sacred City, glorious beaches, and a warm smile from locals.”
Then she said, “However, the list of the treasures in a pearl-shaped country never ends here. There is another heritage, and Sri Lanka and Korea have shared it with honors. That is: the solidarity of the citizens and their earnest endeavors and noble commitment to fight against injustice and oppression.” (See excerpts from her speech at the end of his article.)
The third speaker was Korean Honorary Consul Kim Im-Kweon of Sri Lanka. Concurrently chairman and president of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of Korea, Honorary Consul Kim said in part: “After her independence in 1948, Sri Lanka became a hope of Asia as it enforced a system of providing free medical care services and free education to all of its citizens. Korea and Sri Lanka share a number of common grounds as we both overcame past difficulties for the current realization of democracy, and we also share Buddhist culture and a high zeal for education. If Korea and Sri Lanka strengthen our cooperation together based on the heartfelt ties and the sense of kinship we share, the two countries will be able to make mutually beneficial advancements.” (Further details of the speech are at the end of this article.)
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Gunasekera:
I am delighted to welcome you this evening when Sri Lanka celebrates the important milestone of the 70th Anniversary of our Independence. Sri Lanka is one of the earliest democracies in the post-colonial world and in Asia, having gained independence on 4th February 1948. It is also a country that has consistently upheld parliamentary democracy without interruption, despite challenges.
This year, we celebrate our independence under the theme of ‘One Nation’ at an opportune moment in our bilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea. The celebration of 40 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries, combined with the state visit of His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, the President of Sri Lanka, to the Republic of Korea last November, has led to renewed collaboration between our two countries on the political, economic and cultural spheres.
Ambassador Park, I am honoured by your gracious presence this evening. I am also honoured by the presence of all distinguished invitees and friends of Sri Lanka when we celebrate this important milestone.
While Ceylon at the time of independence was considered a model Commonwealth nation; post-independence, the country has had to confront formidable challenges. Yet today, Sri Lanka stands proud among the community of nations as a country that has successfully overcome those challenges and consolidated peace. Today, our nation is engaged in a transparent process to bring durable peace and reconciliation to all our peoples.
Three years into office, the national unity Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has, as pledged, taken concrete measures to strengthen democratic institutions, uphold good governance and the rule of law, and eradicate corruption, through constitutional, judicial and administrative reform. For the first time in our history, a section of the National Budget for 2018 is dedicated to achieving reconciliation.
Today, our island nation, centrally located in the fast growing South Asian region, is making steady progress on the economic front. I am pleased to observe that the Agreement on Economic Cooperation signed between Sri Lanka and Korea during the state visit, combined with the MOU signed between the two investment promotion agencies of the two countries, introduce conducive mechanisms to further expand bilateral investment, trade and tourism.
Last year, global foreign direct investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka doubled from the previous year, exemplifying the country’s attractive investment climate. Sri Lanka’s FTAs with India, Pakistan and Singapore, the FTA under negotiation with China, combined with Sri Lanka’s ‘Look East’ policy, demonstrate the country’s interest in integrating in global markets and value chains, leveraging its advantageous location as a hub in the Indian ocean.
We welcome the steady progress made in collaboration between Korea and Sri Lanka under the Western Region Megapolis Plan in the context of the MOU signed with Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. We also welcome Korean investment in key sectors and projects in Sri Lanka.
Korea’s ODA plays a complementary role to Korean investment into Sri Lanka. In this regard, the recent increase in Korea’s concessionary loan facility under EDCF cooperation to Sri Lanka by US$ 200 million, is salutary, as is our cooperation with KOICA.
Similarly, labour relations form a key pillar of our bilateral partnership. Around 27,000 Sri Lankan youth are employed in Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS), contributing to the economies of both countries.
While our Buddhist ties go back 15 centuries or more, in more contemporary terms, the ‘K-wave’ or Hallux has captivated the Sri Lankan imagination. I am honored to welcome among us today famous Actress Ms. Lee Young-age who is a celebrity in Sri Lanka, ever since the Korean drama Dee Jang Gem became a box office hit on our television. While Sri Lanka continues to hit the charts as a top tourist destination in the world, we are pleased that more and more Korean tourists are discovering the beauty and tastes of Sri Lanka. In terms of branding, Ceylon tea remains synonymous with the world’s best, along with our blue sapphires and ‘true cinnamon’.
In conclusion, we welcome President Moon Jae-in’s vision of a ‘New Southern policy’ which encompasses South Asia, and could mark a new and exciting chapter in our bilateral cooperation. We also wish Korea success in the soon-to-commence Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
I also take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to Sri Lanka’s Honorary Consul in Busan Mr. Kim Im-kweon; as well as the Cinnamon Group of Hotels and Resorts, among others, for the support extended in organizing today’s event.
And last but not least, I thank each and every one of you for your valued presence today. I hope you enjoy the authentic Sri Lankan food that is specially prepared for you today.
Excerpts from the congratulatory remarks of Ambassador Park Enna:
First of all, I would like to convey my warmest greetings to Ambassador Gunasekera and the people of Sri Lanka for the Lunar New Year.
I am very delighted to be here this evening to join you in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Independence Day of Sri Lanka on behalf of the people and government of the Republic of Korea. It is indeed my distinct honor and pleasure to be part of this truly auspicious occasion.
To Korean people, Sri Lanka is famous for its rich and varied heritage including many architectural treasures, Kandy’s UNESCO-rated Sacred City, glorious beaches, and a warm smile from locals.
However, the list of the treasures in a pearl-shaped country never ends here. There is another heritage, and Sri Lanka and Korea have shared it with honors.
That is: the solidarity of the citizens; and their earnest endeavors and noble commitment to fight against injustice and oppression.
As you may be well aware, Korea has overcome the colonial legacies and the horrendous memories of the civil war, and achieved great success in the economy and the political transition toward democracy. Therefore, with the same historical experiences, the Korean people perfectly understand the aspiration and strong commitment of the Sri Lankan people to building robust democracy.
I would say that this social heritage is irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration, which leads the whole humankind to the bright future, leaving dark events of the past behind. It shows what the highest duty of a citizen is.
With their shared values, Sri Lanka and Korea are building their future together.
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations, His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena visited Korea last November. In this extremely successful visit known for our two leaders’ first meeting at Jogyesa, they reaffirmed the highest level of the two countries’ relationship.
Notably, the summit meeting was a truly meaningful occasion since our two leaders share the same philosophy in their national agenda evolving around people-centered prosperity and robust democracy.
In this regard, I would like to recall President Sirisena’s remarks in one interview. He said, I quote “When the people made me the President, they did not ask for food, water or clothes. They wanted a society where they could live freely and happily”, I unquote.
I believe this is in line with the agenda of the Moon administration. It set its vision of “A Country of the People” in its five-year policy roadmap.
The two countries have another common ground. On cultural front, the Korean and Sri Lankan people have long built a special kinship as brothers and sisters in their quest for peace in Buddhism. In this regard, I believe the two countries are “natural partners” that are always ready to enter into a new phase for more future-oriented relations.
In this context, my government unveiled a new policy aimed at dramatically strengthening cooperation with South Asia. This New Southern Policy will enable South Korea to better connect to Sri Lanka. It is my sincere hope that we can further strengthen our mutually beneficial relationship, and in so doing, promote the well-being and happiness of our peoples, and ultimately realize our common vision of peace and prosperity in the region.
In this regard, the 25,000 strong Sri Lankan community in Korea truly is the invaluable assets of our relationship. We greatly appreciate their dedication and contribution. Furthermore, Korea will continue to support Sri Lanka as the priority partner country for ODA, on its way towards building people-centered prosperity.
We are just two days away from the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which we hope will be remembered as the “peace Olympics”. As Sri Lanka has endeavored to ensure coexistence, harmony, and peace in the Sri Lankan society, the two Koreas will move ahead, raising hopes that the games will truly deliver the Olympic spirit of peace and unity.
Excerpts from the speech of Honorary Consul Kim Im-Kweon of Sri Lanka:
My name is Kim Im-Kweon, Chairman of Suhyup, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives and the Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Busan appointed last October.
First of all, I would like to sincerely congratulate Sri Lanka on the 70th Anniversary of Independence.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to Her Excellency Ambassador Manisha Gunasekera who arranged this meaningful event today and to Her Excellency Park Enna, Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who has given us her valuable time here today despite her busy schedule.
Furthermore, I would like to thank all the guests who have gathered here today for the celebration of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day.
Last year when we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Korea and Sri Lanka, we had active exchanges in the areas of trade and human resources including the State Visit of His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, the President of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Korea.
Sri Lanka, a beautiful island which is also known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” from ancient times had been colonized by Portugal, Netherlands and Britain for around 450 years.
However, after its independence in 1948, it became a hope of Asia as it enforced a system of providing free medical care services and free education to all of its citizens.
Korea and Sri Lanka share a number of common grounds as we both overcame past difficulties for the current realization of democracy, and we also share Buddhist culture and a high zeal for education.
If Korea and Sri Lanka strengthen our cooperation together based on the heartfelt ties and the sense of kinship we share, the two countries will be able to make mutually beneficial advancements.
During my term as the Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka, I will serve as a bridge which facilitates further economic, cultural and social exchanges between the two countries.
Furthermore, I devoted my whole life for the development of the fisheries industry. By bringing together the advanced marine technological skills and the expertise of Korea and the abundant fishery resources Sri Lanka has, I will endeavor to make the lives of Korean and Sri Lankan fishermen happier.
Once again, I would like to sincerely congratulate the 70th Anniversary of Independence of Sri Lanka. To this end, I would like to propose a toast to the common prosperity of our two countries and our lasting friendship.
Here is to the common prosperity and friendship of our two countries!