Welcome Reception of 2015 World Journalists Conference
Date April 13th, 2015 | Venue Schubert Hall, President Hotel
Journalists from all around the world, it is a great pleasure to be here today. I am the mayor of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Park Won-soon. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on the 2015 World Journalists Conference held in Seoul. On behalf of ten million Seoul citizens, I welcome you from the bottom of my heart. I am also very grateful to Mr. Park Jong-ryul, the president of Journalists Association of Korea, and the ten thousand members for inviting me every year to announce the opening of the World Journalists Conference.
There is a Korean saying, “10 years is an epoch.” And yet, we still have a dream to realize even after seven epochs: the dream of unification. We have been living in division, hostility, threats, and insecurity the entire time. Amid the rapidly changing international situation, dilemmas and insecurity on the Korean peninsula have increased and similarities between South and North Korea have weakened and differences intensified. Over 6,700 members of dispersed families in South Korea in South Korea alone are suffering the pain of parting with family members in North Korea, the majority of whom have already aged greatly. Every second counts as precious.
Unification is a national, historical, and timely calling for peace and a bright future on the Korean peninsula. Through communication in details and the establishing of trust, we should improve inter-Korean relations, spread empathy, and draw the support of the international community. This is why the World Journalists Conference, held under the theme of “Thinking about unification of the Korean peninsula after 70 years of division,” draws attention from the whole world.
I therefore expect this 7-day discussion of world journalists to be a platform where we can draw a big picture idea of unification of the Korean peninsula, suggest specific visions and practical measures, and contemplate the role of the media.
In particular, I have heard that this year, journalists from 11 countries that participated in the Korean War (21 nations that engaged in warfare, 16 nations that dispatched combat forces, and 5 nations that dispatched medical units) have been invited to have a more meaningful time. I hope the conference will spread a consensus beyond the sorrow of the Korean peninsula, the only nation divided in the world, towards the dream of the future prosperity of the global community.
Before I took office, I had a chance to travel to Germany for about 3 months. At the time I interviewed leaders in Germany with the goal of publishing a book I titled, “Interviewing German Society.” One thing the people I met at the time told me, people who had also lived in a divided country, was that, “The Berlin Wall didn’t fall overnight.” They advised me that when discussions on and preparation for unification become a part of our lives, the dream of unification comes true.
Germany practiced the principles. Not only the national government but also local governments and the private sector exchanged comprehensively to destroy the Berlin Wall and became one. The visit of the governor of Saarland in West Germany to East Germany in 1985 provided an opportunity to establish sisterhoods between 62 cities. After that, they exchanged and cooperated on urban problems such as transportation between cities, housing, and environmental pollution to sports, art, and cultural events. These accumulated efforts finally destroyed the Berlin Wall after four years.
Considering the critical role played by local governments in the unification of Germany, our local governments will have to be a solid pillar of exchange and cooperation with North Korea as well. For that, it is urgent to draw North Korea into a forum of conversation to establish a starting point of exchange. We should cancel the 5/24 action, and instead respect and put into place the agreements the two Koreas have made in the past. In addition to the revitalization of Gaeseong Industrial Complex, we should expand it to the second and third stages to launch South Korean corporations in the SOC construction and mineral resources development in North Korea, to open the gate to new exchanges and find a way out of the difficulty of our own economy.
This year heralds the 70th anniversary of independence and division. Since my inauguration in 2011, I have been consistently suggesting sports and cultural exchanges and cooperation projects such as resuming soccer games between Seoul and Pyeongyang and exchange performances of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and the Pyeongyang Philharmonic Orchestra. I have also suggested joint history research projects, urban planning cooperation, and economic cooperation with the Gaeseong Industrial Complex model, and I will keep taking various roles and suggesting various projects. In this sense, I strongly request the national government to give the Seoul Government support and opportunities to implement exchange projects between the two Koreas at the local government level. I believe if citizens of Seoul and Pyeongyang join together and exchange to build a solid foundation of trust to understand and accept each other, peace and unification will naturally lie ahead of us. Let’s go forward hand in hand until the day when the world journalists’ consistent desire for Korean unification and world peace, the dream of Korea and the world, comes true.
Beautiful flowers are blooming to welcome you to Seoul. I hope you enjoy your experience in this beautiful and charming city with two thousand years of history, from beautiful winding walkways in Namsan Mountain, to Hanyang and the Fortress Wall of Seoul, the beautiful views along the Hangang River, Myeongdong shopping street, and Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the new center of design in the world. Thank you very much.