President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone with Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar, at the request of the Irish Prime Minister, for 30 minutes from 5:00 p.m. today. Today’s phone call was President Moon’s 100th telephone conversation with a foreign head of state or government since he took office on May 10, 2017. It was his 31st call regarding COVID-19 responses with 30 world leaders, including the Director-General of the World Health Organization. The President has spoken with U.S. President Donald Trump on the phone twice about the issue.
President Moon began by saying that he recently received a letter from Bono, the leader of the Irish rock band U2, requesting bilateral cooperation concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. The President then expressed his gratitude to the Irish Prime Minister for suggesting that the two leaders speak on the phone.
President Moon went on to say, “I was told that you are also providing medical assistance to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by drawing on your experience as a doctor. I also heard about implementing the #InThisTogether campaign as part of the policy efforts to support the physical and mental states of the Irish people, whose lives have been constrained by the COVID-19 outbreak. I wish Ireland the earliest possible recovery from the COVID-19 crisis under your leadership.”
※ Born to an Indian medical doctor and an Irish nurse, Prime Minister Varadkar graduated from the School of Medicine at Trinity College and served as a doctor for some seven years. In March 2020, he re-registered as a doctor to provide telephone consultation services once a week to diagnose those exposed to COVID-19.
※ The #InThisTogether campaign is designed to encourage all citizens to share indoor exercise videos and health management know-how freely with each other.
Prime Minister Varadkar expressed gratitude to President Moon for accepting his suggestion to speak over the phone. The Prime Minister said that he and Bono often converse as they are friends personally and that the musician works not just for Ireland but the whole world.
The Prime Minister went on to say that his country has been greatly inspired by Korea’s response to COVID-19. He explained that after closely observing Korea’s active diagnostic testing, Ireland – like Korea – began testing and tracing the movements of confirmed cases, which has proven effective as evidenced by lower confirmed case and fatality rates in his country.
Prime Minister Varadkar added that Ireland had also developed an application to trace the travel histories of confirmed cases like Korea. He then stressed that Korea and Ireland have similar approaches in that both countries underscore citizens’ voluntary participation based on democracy.
The Irish Prime Minister said that Korea-made diagnostic kits have been of great help and expressed interest in the additional purchase of face masks and other personal protective medical equipment.
President Moon replied, “Unlike other European countries, Ireland is not taking compulsory measures such as banning the entry of foreign nationals, which is in line with the three principles that Korea bases its COVID-19 response on – openness, transparency and democracy. I am pleased to see the two countries coping with the COVID-19 outbreak with a similar spirit and philosophy.”
President Moon added, “I am very pleased to hear that Korea’s diagnostic kits have been helpful in overcoming the COVID-19 outbreak in Ireland. Although the issue of face mask supply in Korea has yet to be completely solved, the urgent domestic demand is being met to some extent. Since we are continuing to increase domestic production of face masks, we will actively look for ways to support Ireland’s request.”
President Moon expressed his gratitude to Ireland for consistently supporting the Korean Government’s efforts to alleviate tension and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula after having sent troops during the Korean War and engaging in volunteer activities and local development efforts following the War.
Prime Minister Varadkar said he would share the experience and expertise gained from the process of building peace in Ireland if they would be helpful for the Korean Peninsula peace process. Ireland was not a member of the United Nations at the time of the Korean War, but a battalion of about 1,000 Irish troops joined the British and U.S. forces and took part in the war.
Prime Minister Varadkar congratulated the President on the ruling party’s victory in the April 15 general election and noted the Korean Government’s efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula, saying he would continue to provide support.
The Prime Minister specifically recalled his 2013 visit to Korea as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and hoped for a chance to travel to Busan, which he missed during his last visit. In reply, President Moon suggested that the issue be discussed through diplomatic channels as soon as the COVID-19 crisis is brought under control.