The Year of Korea in Canada
South Korean ambassador visits Dal
Ashley Greene - September 25, 2013
South Korean Ambassador Cho Hee-yong hosted a frank and charming presentation while visiting the Dal campus earlier this month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and South Korea. Topping the ambassador’s priority list was expressing his deepest appreciation for Canada’s sacrifice during the Korean War, including a personal message of thanks to an audience member.
Ambassador Cho, who visited on September 16, devoted a considerable portion of his visit to celebrating our “shared history” and discussing ways to grow ties further between our two nations. Several times throughout the visit, he referred to South Korea and Canada as “like-minded countries,” “staunch allies” and “ideal partners.” Going forward, the ambassador feels that as “middle powers” Canada and South Korea could benefit by sticking together.
While the overall tone is best described as cautiously optimistic, it was apparent the relatively slow progress made on a trade agreement between South Korea and Canada weighed heavily on Ambassador Cho's mind. In particular, the ambassador would like to see some progress on the sensitive issue of importing Canadian meat and seafood urging both sides of the bargaining table to be more flexible. He was clearly passionate about this issue referring to the “substantial untapped potential” for trade between our two nations several times.
In response to a student question regarding the apparent Canadian push for increased diplomatic relations with China, the ambassador implored the audience to pay more attention to the Korean peninsula emphasizing our common values of freedom and democracy. He also expressed interest in increased collaboration when it comes to dealing with China.
The audience was proud to learn that Dalhousie is one of the best-known international universities in Korea. Ambassador Cho was visibly excited talking about the success of youth exchanges between our two nations with over 22,000 Korean students studying in Canada right now. When probed by an audience member to name South Korea’s most favoured international post-secondary institution, the ambassador wisely refused to play favorites. Instead, he took the opportunity to highlight the vital role universities play in promoting understanding and awareness.
Though the presentation was serious in nature, the ambassador could not help but show his lighter side. In particular, his envy for “our one giant country instead of [us] who have so many,” and our “absolutely delicious Canadian lobster and pork,” elicited quite a bit of laughter from the students in attendance.
The lecture was co-hosted by the Canadian International Council, the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies and the Department of Political Science. For more on "The year of Korea in Canada," visit http://korcan50years.com/
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