Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the citizens of Paris, Bounjour!
I am deeply grateful to the Mayor and citizens of Paris for the warm welcome extended to me, my wife and my delegation. It is very meaningful for me to visit Paris’s City Hall that represents the entirety of French history.
Paris is a special city to the Republic of Korea. Approximately 100 years ago, Paris was willing to welcome Kim Kyu-sik and a delegation from the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. The vibrant independence movement in Paris gave tremendous strength and comfort to the Korean people who were in deep despair after losing national sovereignty.
The beauty of Paris also fascinated Koreans. In 1885, Yu Kil-chun visited Paris and showered it with praise as the world’s best city. He also introduced the city to the Korean people saying that even magnificent London and affluent New York lagged far behind when compared to the beauty of Paris.
Some 160 years on, it now seems that both the external and internal beauty of Paris has become even deeper. The city’s landscape is beautiful and filled with a free and romantic atmosphere however, Parisians’ spirit of tolerance is even more attractive.
The city of Paris accepts immigrants from all parts of the world and helps them put their dreams and passions into action in a harmonious manner. Various cultures mingle together, filling each and every street with vitality.
Tolerance and harmony constitute the source France’s strength. To the people of the world, Dr. Marie Curie, who received the Nobel Prize twice, and the national soccer team of France, which won the FIFA World Cup twice, are testaments to the great strength of France: its embrace of immigrants.
The people of France have been able, through the strength of the nation’s tolerance, to overcome the shock and sadness caused by the series of Paris terrorist attacks three years ago. I pay respect to the citizens of Paris who surmounted acts of terrorism through a mature attitude, repudiating the walls of discrimination and segregation.
France’s strength has never accrued easily.
The front plaza of Paris’s City Hall, which vividly embodies a venue for revolution, was once set ablaze and smeared with blood. Still, the people of France did not fear change. They did not stop their struggles for democracy and a republic.
Finally, they demolished the old order of oppression, discrimination and marginalization, ushering in the era of liberty, equality and fraternity that humanity had aspired to.
The history of the French Revolution gave courage and inspiration to Koreans living far away. The spirit of the French Revolution was rekindled in the light of revolution in each and every candle held by the people of the Republic of Korea.
As Le Clézio described it, the Korean people demonstrated their strong determination for change through peaceful and nonviolent silence and a light that illuminated the night.
France and the Republic of Korea firmly held hands transcending space and time. They safeguarded democracy with a strong spirit of solidarity. The City Hall of Paris and Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul are connected through history.
Now the Korean Peninsula is facing one of world history’s great transitions. Wisdom and strength are being combined to dissolve the last remaining Cold War order on earth and bring forth an era of peace and harmony.
The Korean people and I will carve out a peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula in solidarity with the international community. Support from the people of France, who have channeled the spirit of the Revolution into a beautiful Paris and a great France, will be the greatest source of strength.
I hope that as France brought liberty, equality and fraternity to the people of the world, the Korean Peninsula will become a source of hope in humanity’s quest for peace.