There was a vibrance in the crowd awaiting the start of the sold-out Korean performance arts event aptly named, “A Story of Friendship”. The show would deliver a spectacular and carefully choreographed showcase of Korean talent in Vancouver’s Chan Centre located at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
The evening would also deliver another story, less lively and more esoteric. It would be a story of a province and a country, shared by Norm Letnick, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier on Intergovernmental Affairs. British Columbia and Korea have an economic and cultural relationship which has been flourishing as of late, and the BC government is counting on it for future prosperity.
On behalf of Premier Christy Clark, Mr. Letnick outlined both BC’s current and future trade situation and cultural connections between Korea and BC, in addition to shared goals.
“Currently, 50% of Canada’s trade with Korea comes from British Columbia, especially from the natural resource sectors of mining and forestry,” he said. According to government sources in 2011, the Republic of Korea is BC’s fourth largest trading partner. Between the two countries, $3.2 billion worth of goods had been exchanged in 2009, with BC exports to Korea doubling in the past decade.
The Parliamentary Secretary made reference to ongoing free trade negotiations between Korea and Canada. “We look forward to Canadian-Korean free trade negotiations to be finalized soon,” Mr. Letnick began. These trade talks have occurred over eight years, and with renewed energy and focus, the federal government is working together with Republic of Korea President Park to conclude them successfully.
Already, BC exports coal, copper, aluminum and wood products to the world’s 13th largest economy and eighth largest trading nation.
Mr. Letnick believes that though “BC is most often linked to LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas)” in discussions involving Korea, Korea and BC share a much deeper connection. Trade and Invest BC points out on its website that South Korea is the world’s second-largest importer of LNG. The implications are that once up and running, BC will be able to “significantly increase LNG sales to South Korea”.
He went on to say that, “Last year, Christy Clark became an honorary citizen of Geonggi, a sister province of BC.” In 2010, the two provinces signed a three-year Action Plan outlining areas for cooperation in a number of economic and cultural areas. He also noted that three Lower Mainland cities are closely involved with Korea through sister city or economic partnerships: Coquitlam and Paju City, Burnaby and Hwaseong City, and North Vancouver and Guro City.
Mr. Letnick referred to the number of people in BC with Korean origins, which is 51,000. “That number is growing yearly. Korea is the top source for international students…at UBC and across BC.” An additional positive measure of the Korean-Canadian relationship is the joint research occurring at UBC in the areas of wood products and biotechnology.
Lastly, Mr. Letnick pointed out the experience which BC and Korea would soon have in common. “In five years, they will have the same experience as Vancouver when they host the winter Olympic games in [the city of] Pyeongchang.” In 2011, Pyeongchang was announced to be the successful city to host the 2018 winter Olympics, receiving more votes than Munich, Germany and Annecy, France. Vancouver held the winter Olympics of 2010.
“A Story of Friendship” was a perfect metaphorical backdrop for Mr. Letnick’s address. The performance was, in Mr. Letnick’s words, “about friendship and communication, two essential concepts for international relations.” And, “there is no better way to celebrate our 50th anniversary of Korean-Canadian diplomatic relations” than with our friends.
It sounds like British Columbia and Korea are working diligently on their friendship, with the incredible performance being a great boost. It is a great story.