Things are bound to change in a decade and half.
Since I landed in Vancouver in 1997, Europe create d a common currency, Spain earned its first World Cup, and too many wars have started and ended. In 1997, Korea was unknown to many in the Western world, including Canadians, if it was not formally under-represented by numbers in the international stage. Like many Korea-Canadian children, I grew up dreaming to achieve many great things, but all of them involved becoming the “first from Korea” of some sort. Now in 2013, I need to strike-out many of the “first from Korea” great achievements I wanted to do from the list. As I have canvassed in my previous blogs, Koreans are widely represented from the very top and executive decision making process to the front line of the fire in the world’s most relevant institutions, including the UN, WTO and OECD.
The list is far from complete, however. Korea opened to the world (and vice versa) and participated in extensive and various forums in the world stage, including the IMF, World Bank, APEC among many more. Importance of the Korea’s intensifying engagement is that it also ignited Korea’s interactions with Canada. During this time period, Korea-Canada bilateral relationship flourished.
In particular, former Korean President Kim Young Sam and Prime Minister Jean Chretien created Canada-Korea Special Partnership in 1994 during the APEC Summit in Seattle. It was a product of mutual understanding that both Canada and Korea share common concerns as “middle-power” countries in the Region. Through this Special Partnership, two countries discussed not only about bilateral relationship, but also strategized common front in other multilateral forums, such as the WTO. During the first 6 years of its creation from 1994 to 2000, the Special Partnership held 10 Working Group meetings, discussing wide variety of issues ranging from economics to aid to the Third World.
In addition, politicians in Canada and Korea enjoy regular relationship through Canada-Korea Interparliamentary Friendship Association, while the business communities in two countries meet in the market place, as well as in Canada-Korea Business Council. And who knows how many tens if not hundreds and thousands of other governmental, private and non-profit bilateral ties exist between the two countries?!
Today, we are celebrating the Year of Korea in Canada, and the Year of Canada in Korea. We should all take a note that this did not just happen overnight. To me, the cause for celebration is to remind us of all the hard work that two countries have put together, and to recognize the mutual benefit in doing the same, if not more, in the years to come. As this blog has explored, Korea opened to the world, and the world opened to Korea. Interactions that made today’s Canada-Korea relationship possible are deep rooted in the determination of two countries to engage with the world. This is a hard-fought fruit of long and enduring hard work, and it is a worthy cause to celebrate.
* The information pertaining to the Canada-Korea Special Partnership, Interparliamentary Friendship Association and Business Concil are from the website of Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade at here.