Honorable Prime Minister Phuc, Mrs. Thu and members of the Vietnamese delegation, I welcome you all. It is my great pleasure to reciprocate the hospitality extended to me during my state visit to Vietnam last year. I must say that Mrs. Thu looks very natural and beautiful in Hanbok. Let’s give her a big round of applause.
I still vividly remember Hanoi steeped in the magnificence of its 1,000-year-old history; President Ho Chi Minh’s compassion and love for his people, which I could feel while retracing his footsteps; and the daily lives of Vietnam’s citizens that I tasted at a rice noodle restaurant. I also still cherish the pair of chopsticks that restaurant owner presented me.
This year is significant as it marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of President Ho Chi Minh and the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government. A document found last year recorded interactions between Ho Chi Minh and independence activists from Korea’s Provisional Government 100 years ago in Paris, France. This makes our ongoing bilateral cooperation all the more meaningful.
Independence activists from our two countries envisioned together an Asia of
harmony, peace, co-existence and prosperity. Protectionism and the practice of putting one’s own country first still remain today, but as Prime Minister Phuc pointed out, international relations should always fundamentally aim for peace and cooperation. Today, the Prime Minister and I agreed to work together for peace in Asia as well as to pursue mutual prosperity by cooperating on trade, investment, infrastructure and smart cities.
Our two countries have both suffered a history of foreign aggression due to geopolitical factors – being coastal nations where the continent meets the ocean. Today, however, our two countries are advancing as bridging nations that connect the continent and ocean. Korea’s New Southern Policy aims to achieve what our two countries aspired to a century ago: an Asia where cooperation blooms among nations that are equal. Korea, along with Vietnam, will write a new chapter in the history of peace and prosperity in East Asia.
Last month, I read an article about Vietnamese students learning Korean who used the word “ttobagi” in a play. This purely Korean word means “always, invariably and exactly so.” That seems to describe the friendship between Vietnam and Korea.
I would like to propose a toast: For a peaceful and prosperous Asia, may our two countries stay as close as the word ttobagi implies.
Chúc hạnh phúc! (I wish you happiness!)