His Majesty the King, Minister Søreide, Rector Stølen and students of the University of Oslo, ladies and gentlemen:
God dag! Thank you for such a warm welcome.
I am especially grateful for being invited to the Oslo Forum, which plays a key role in the international community as a mediator for resolving disputes and conflict as well as creating peace.
Norway is often referred to the world’s happiest country. Having come here in person, I came to realize the reason.
Norway can be also described as a place where a culture of mutual respect amid peaceful everyday life and diversity flourishes and where people and nature are beautifully harmonized.
Local pride is palpable here in Oslo, 2019 winner of the European Green Capital Award. Truly inspiring are Oslo’s efforts to create a “people-centered city” through eco-friendly public transportation and social integration policies.
Today, I believe it is deeply meaningful to have the chance to share words with you who will lead Norway’s future at the University of Oslo, an incubator of intelligence that has contributed to the peace and development of the mankind.
I have heard that a Korean Studies program which has been opened at the University of Oslo plays an important role in promoting awareness of Korea’s history and culture.
In Korea, there is a high interest in Norway and Northern Europe. The Nordic “Law of Jante,” which emphasizes humility, consideration for others and equality, resonates strongly with people who are worn out by excessive competition. Common Norwegian wisdom, imparted orally by mothers to their children, has provided courage and strength to Koreans who live on the other side of the globe.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Although far apart geographically, our two nations have shared friendship for six decades and have grown especially close.
Our bilateral trade volume has continued to grow since the Korea-EFTA free trade agreement went into effect in 2006. Our cooperation has widened in the shipbuilding and maritime industries based on Norway’s exceptional technology and Korea’s excellent building capabilities. Let’s not forget our joint involvement in arctic field research, to include the opening of the Dasan Arctic Station and Collaborative Polar Research Center.
Above all, our two countries have been comrades in arms. When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula in 1950, Norwegian-born Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, appealed strongly to the international community for U.N. troops to be dispatched, and he prevailed despite opposition from some powerful countries. Furthermore, Norway sent a medical support team of 623 personnel to the Korean Peninsula, and they are credited with saving some 90,000 precious lives.
The Republic of Korea has never forgotten this debt of gratitude owed to the Kingdom of Norway. On behalf of the Korean people, I would like to convey our warm feelings of friendship and appreciation.
Distinguished guests and students,
Today’s Norway is the envy of the world for its peace, inclusiveness, public welfare, innovation and growth. I believe that Norway’s true greatness lies in the strength of its people.
In 1814, 112 ordinary people, including 37 tenant farmers and 17 community heads, gathered in the small municipality of Eidsvoll. They declared Norway’s independence and proclaimed the Constitution of Norway. The Eidsvoll Constitution, which has been the most progressive constitution for more than 200 years with the values of freedom and equality, remains as the pride of the Norwegian people.
In the 1940s, ordinary citizens mounted a resistance movement against German occupancy. Some 35,000 Norwegian citizens were incarcerated in concentration camps or prison during that painful time.
Political leaders have also merged their strength to ensure that the groundwork for peace laid by the people remained firm. A social welfare system was built to translate national economic growth into a growth of people, and an institutional foundation was arranged for the pursuit of an egalitarian society.
Norway today is renowned as the world’s best country for gender equality and for freedom of the press. Norway has ranked number one on the Economist’s EIU democracy index for the past nine years in a row. I heartily applaud the Norwegian people for such a great accomplishment.
The people have also been the very driving force behind the Republic of Korea’s advancement.
One hundred years ago, when Korea was under colonial rule, woodcutters, miners, students, visually impaired persons, domestic servants, female entertainers, peasantry, and other ordinary people came out on the streets to wave the Korean flag and participate in the March First Movement calling for national independence. This was a massive protest, with the participation of approximately 2.02 million people, which amounted ten percent of the total population at that time.
Even after her independence, Korea suffered a devastating war. Despite the setbacks, the country has managed to achieve economic growth and democracy through the strength of her people in seven short decades. This is seen as an unprecedented achievement in the world.
Mothers and fathers, unable to study themselves, were determined to have their children educated. Friends and neighbors encouraged each other by saying, “You can do it!” When the nation and society faced a crisis, the people took to the streets holding candles, assuming the lead in restoring democracy. The Republic of Korea we see today was created by each and every one of these determined citizens.
Korea’s per capita income surpassed US$30,000 for the first time in 2017, and last year its export exceeded US$600 billion, marking the world’s sixth largest volume. In addition, we are heading towards an inclusive nation by enhancing the social safety net for the most vulnerable through measures such as raising the minimum wage, initiating an allowance for children, and increasing the basic pension for the elderly.
Recently, the peace process on the Korean Peninsula is under way to bring fundamental changes in the security situation of the Peninsula with the determination of the leaders of the two Koreas as well as the United States.
In Berlin in 2017, I proposed a new peace initiative for the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea positively responded in a New Year’s address in January of last year. The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games turned out to be a successful “Peace Olympics” with the North’s participation and international support.
I met Chairman Kim Jong Un at Panmunjeom in April of last year. This was a historic moment, when the supreme leader of the North has stepped foot on the soil of the South for the first time since the division of the Korean Peninsula. Later, we agreed to cease hostile military activities against each other, to withdraw guard-posts and to recover the remains of the deceased during the Korean War in the Demilitarized Zone.
Now, the two Koreas maintain a joint liaison office in Gaeseong, where representatives from both sides can meet and communicate at any time. Firearms have been withdrawn from the Joint Security Area of the DMZ, where the soldiers of both Koreas as well as the United Nations Command are on guard together, and the southern part of the JSA has already been opened to general tourists. A “Peace Trail” has been established inside the DMZ, which had been a tragic symbol of Korean division, thus the public can walk along the trail.
Norway has never faltered on the journey for peace, as evidenced by the peace that exists today. Likewise, the Korean government will stride forward unwaveringly, to achieve peace without fail.
Today happens to be the first anniversary of the first North Korea-United States summit, which is attributable to bold commitment and leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un. One year ago, the leaders of the two sides met face to face, for the first time ever, in Singapore. They reached an agreement on the overriding principles of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, new North Korea-U.S. relations, and a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
Now that agreement is moving forward. Talks appear in a stalemate since the second North Korea-United States summit, but that is because we need some time to understand each other thoroughly. It is the process of thawing out hostile feelings that have persisted for the last 70 years.
What we need now is not a new vision or proclamation, but the deepening of mutual understanding and trust. With this as a foundation, we have to strengthen the will for dialogue further.
Even after the second North Korea-United States summit, President Trump and Chairman Kim are still expressing the trust on each other and their firm resolve towards further dialogue. The international community is providing consistent support for the realization of peace through dialogue, and this serves as great strength for overcoming the current impasse.
Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” I sincerely wish his insight to be engraved in our mind.
Distinguished guests and students,
We learn the wisdom for attaining peace on the Korean Peninsula from Norway, where peace was created by the strength of the people.
First wisdom is that we need a positive peace that changes everyday life.
Professor Johan Galtung, who offered a pioneering philosophy and theories on peace, explained that the concept of peace can be categorized into two types: negative and positive. Negative peace is simple absence of direct violence, whereas positive peace seeks out and resolves structural causes of conflict.
Feelings of mutual hostility are the greatest cause of conflict. Above all, we will be able to find out and resolve structural conflicts when we understand one another through exchanges and cooperation.
We may simply turn our backs against one another and go on living in peace. However, real peace is the one that is mutually beneficial. For this to happen, that peace proves to be good and useful to every individual citizen.
Longstanding division has restricted the lives, democracy, and even the people’s thought in Korea. Thus, our political culture has not developed apace, though we achieved an advanced economy. Now this situation must change. When peace truly becomes useful to the everyday lives of the people, they will actively overcome the division and foster peace.
This is how Norway and Northern Europe created their peace. The Nordic countries neighboring one another, started to face environmental problems such as air pollution and marine pollution in the 1950s. Norway no longer stayed still in passive peace. The country chose the way to resolve the problems through cooperation with neighboring countries and thereby improve the quality of life for her citizens.
As a result, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe concluded the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution in 1979. This was followed by the 1985 Helsinki Protocol, which stipulated a 30 percent reduction in sulfur emissions. Such accomplishments were the result of efforts to resolve problems that closely affect people’s lives through dialogues.
Reckless development, waste dumping, and tanker oil-spills resulted in depleted fish stocks and disrupted marine ecosystems. Norway worked on tackling the marine pollution problem in cooperation with other coastal countries. The 1972 Oslo Convention was concluded, thus to regulate ocean dumping.
The fresh air and clean seas that we now enjoy in Oslo reflect peace achieved through dialogue and cooperation, consensus and understanding. I would like to express my admiration for Norway’s heartfelt efforts.
The two Koreas not only share a border, but constitute a “community of life” that must live together. Our shared history spans 5,000 years, whereas our history apart is a mere 70 years long.
Wildfires, damage from insects and infectious diseases in domestic animals could also occur in the border area where people are not allowed to get access. An invisible borderline on the sea threatens the fishing rights of fishermen.
As Professor Galtung has rightly pointed out, it is important to peacefully resolve the structural violence that the people of the two Koreas have suffered because of division. I would like to name it as “peace for the people.”
We must first address the damages in the border area. An excellent case of cooperation in this regard is the “permanent legations” laid out in the German Basic Treaty of 1972. East and West Germany took advantage of these permanent legations to make swift and joint responses to fires, floods, landslides, infectious diseases, insect damage and water contamination occurring in border areas.
I wish this precedence can be also applied to the Korean Peninsula, thus to foster concrete hope for peace among the peoples. If we are to bring together positive thinking that peace is a good thing that improves the quality of life, it will heal the division in the hearts of people who have been separated by different ideology and views.
The huge wave of peace referred to as denuclearization and a peace regime will grow much stronger.
Second wisdom is that, we need a peace that contributes to resolving disputes and conflicts between neighboring countries.
The Norwegian people, fully aware of the importance of peace for themselves, have paid attention to peace for other nations, too.
The Norwegians brokered a settlement to a half-century of conflict between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization through the conclusion of the 1993 Oslo Accords. This historic peace agreement began with the imagination and courage of a Norwegian couple (Mona Juul and her husband, Terje Rød-Larsen) who were working as ordinary diplomats.
The husband and wife brought together the Israeli Prime Minister and PLO Chairman for a series of secret negotiations. Their dedicated efforts got the Israelis and Palestinians to view each other as partners for dialogue and understanding rather than as objects of bitterness and hatred.
The story of this couple who created the process toward peace was recounted in the J.T. Rogers’ play Oslo, which has touched audiences worldwide. The play was staged in Korea at the end of last year and attracted the attention and admiration of many Koreans eager for peace.
The Cold War has ended across the world, but the Cold War structure remains in place on the Korean Peninsula. The South and the North are still divided, and the North has not established diplomatic relations with the United States or Japan.
The establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula means a complete dismantling of the last vestiges of the Cold War structure in Northeast Asia. This will provide the countries in Northeast Asia that have experienced protracted conflict over historical issues and ideology with an opportunity to proceed with forward-looking cooperation.
In August of last year, I proposed an East Asian Railroad Community initiative, involving six Northeast Asian countries and the United States. This envisions the development of Northeast Asian energy and economic communities, and the subsequent expansion into a multilateral peace and security community in the region.
I wish peace on the Korean Peninsula will contribute to regional peace and reconciliation, thereby hastening the day when Asia and Europe can prosper together.
His Majesty the King, Minister Søreide, Rector Stølen and students of the University of Oslo, ladies and gentlemen:
Snow on Galdhopiggen, the highest peak of the Scandinavian Peninsula, melts every May and June. The runoff flows through the narrow and long fjords to reach the great ocean.
The quest for peace on the Korean Peninsula is in no way easy. The time needed will not be short. However, when mutual understanding allows enmity to dissolve, like the snow that melts and flows to the ocean, peace on the Korean Peninsula will also reach its goal.
Norway and Korea are partners for peace. I hope that Norway will continue to share its wisdom and strength until peace on the Korean Peninsula firmly takes root.
The Republic of Korea will always remain with Norway on its noble journey toward peace and prosperity for all of humanity.