News & Media



Excellencies Ambassadors,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Media Personnel,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me just say how lucky and fortunate we are today as there appears to be no abrupt and big news from North Korea which could have disrupted our plans and prevented us from traveling this far to Gyeongju.

It is my honor and privilege to extend my warmest welcome to all of you to this retreat in the historical city of Gyeongju. I am elated that we are joined not only by distinguished guests from our ASEAN colleagues but also from the East Asian Summit member countries and members of the Korean media. I am especially delighted because your presence here speaks volumes about the importance you attach to ASEAN-Korea partnership and ASEAN’s importance in the global community….. 

This year is particularly significant for both ASEAN and Korea as it marks 25 years of successful dialogue relations between the two regions. Leaders of ASEAN and Korea will meet at least twice this year; at the 16th ASEAN-ROK Summit in Myanmar and the ASEAN-ROK Special Summit in the Republic of Korea in December. A host of activities are being lined up by relevant ministries in Korea to commemorate this ‘silver jubilee’ of ASEAN-ROK relations. As the establishment of the ASEAN-Korea Centre is one of the milestones in this common journey, the Centre, which also celebrates its 5th year of successful operations in 2014, will also organize commemorative activities to herald this historical landmark, and this media retreat is the first event to kick-off a series of programmes that are already in the pipeline in this exciting year. 

Before we move on, I would like to answer a question posed by some of my colleagues….. Why a retreat  Well, in its simplest form, “retreat” means to withdraw or to drawback. It is a time consciously set aside for a change of focus, stepping away from our normal routine by withdrawing from the everyday noise or pressure to be in a quiet or secluded place where all our senses are open and ready to listen. 

The greatest benefit of retreat is that it gives us fresh ways of seeing; opens new possibilities and perspective. Perspective gives us the capacity to see a situation objectively, stepping back to gain a bigger view like seeing a circus parade from an upstairs window rather than through a hole in the fence at ground level.        Retreat would help us bring renewed perspective of the situation in order to move forward into the future.

When I first started to visualise about this retreat, I found it desirable to organize the event at a place that is suitable for a retreat and fitting for a gathering of high profile personnel such as all of you and I can’t think of a better place in Korea than Gyeongju, a city chosen to be the capital by the ancient Kingdom of Silla, that symbolises unity in the Korean peninsula as it successfully united Korea for the first time in 668 A.D. Hence, the peninsula had stayed united for more than one millenium before outside forces intervened and imposed artificial division on Korea in 1945. In comparison, Germany had stayed unified for only 74 years since it gained unification by the efforts of Otto Von Bismarck in 1871 until it was divided in 1945. 

Coming to Gyeongju reinforces our conviction that we should not despair at Korea’s continuous division. Rather, we should foster a positive mindset as 69 years of division pales in comparison to more than one thousand years of a united Korea, which Gyeongju, as the capital city of Silla Dynasty, had forged and witnessed, throughout its history. In fact, nowadays, issues on unification have become a very hot topic of conversation in every public discoure here in Korea..

As President Park says in her first ever presidential press conference in January this year, ‘Unification is jackpot’. She mentioned this again in her keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, just a few days ago, when she told that the unification of Korea will be a jackpot not only for Korea but for neighbouring countries as well, adding that the region will be rewarded with a fresh engine of growth and vast new investment opportunities from a new face of Korea…… united.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I emphasised unity here because in any grouping, the biggest obstacle towards a common goal is how to overcome ‘diversity’, be it disparity in economical development, variation in culture or differences in political ethos. Amazingly, in its more than 46 years of existence, ASEAN has managed to harness these diversities into strong pillars of unity. Now, a region of robust growth and vibrant economic activity, ASEAN has emerged as a driving force, promoting peace, security, stability, prosperity and integration, not only among its members, but also in the ever evolving regional architecture, through various ASEAN-led processes, including ASEAN plus One, ASEAN Plus Three, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) and East Asia Summit (EAS).

Today, my colleague in the AKC will further elaborate on this during his presentation entitled ‘ASEAN in the World and ASEAN-Korea Relationship,’ and we are also joined by renowned experts who will share informative lectures on intriguing topics. 

We have invited three distinguished lecturers; Prof. John Delury of Yonsei University who will present on ‘Recent Developments in North Korea,’ Amb. Huh Kyung-wook, Former Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to OECD and Former Vice-Minister of Ministry of Strategy and Finance who will talk above ‘Current Status and Future of Korea’s Economy,’ and Ms. Kim Yoon-hee, Executive Director of Asia Society Korea Center who will share her perspective on ‘Hallyu as Soft Power.’

Our progranmme will continue tomorrow with a tour of Gyeongju’s magnificent and historical places which are designated as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites where you can indulge yourself in the rich history and culture of a united Korea reigned by the Silla Dynasty.

I trust that these informative programmes, coupled with the great ambience provided by this scenic city…... and in the spirit of ‘retreat’……. will enable us to reinvigorate our minds in preparation for our tasks ahead in 2014.

With that, I would like to wish you again, a very happy and prosperous new year. 

Thank you.