Honorable President Reuven Rivlin and the members of the Israeli delegation, I wholeheartedly welcome you all to Korea.
I was told that First Lady Nechama Rivlin was respected and loved by the people of Israel for her steady engagement in environmental issues, support for children with special needs and other charity activities in diverse areas before her passing a month ago. I pray for the repose of her soul and convey my deepest sympathy to President Rivlin.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1962, bilateral relations between our two countries have been growing deeper with every passing year. Bilateral trade posted US$2.7 billion last year, an all-time high.
Interest in each other’s culture is also rising. The Korean people long for Jerusalem, the background of the Bible, and read the Talmud. Last year, more than 45,000 Koreans visited Israel. Novels by world-renowned writer Amos Oz have been translated into Korean and have moved the hearts of literature-loving Koreans.
In Israel, affection for K-pop has sparked interest in the language and food of Korea. It is also truly gratifying news that the people of Israel strongly favor Korea-made cars and appliances. This mutual fondness between our two peoples will become a great driving force for the advancement of our bilateral relations.
President Rivlin and I had frank and instructive conversations today. Most of all, we were able to confirm the potential and possibility of our two countries, which will usher in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution together.
If Israel’s excellent technologies in advanced industrial fields are combined with Korea’s ability to integrate information and communication technology with manufacturing, our two countries will be able to stay ahead in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I hope this visit to Korea by President Rivlin will help further expand bilateral economic cooperation, including innovation and startups, and eventually serve as an opportunity for our two countries to conclude a free trade agreement.
Israeli nationals who immigrated from various parts of the world have diverse social, religious and cultural backgrounds. I heard that the Jews born in Israel are commonly referred to as sabra, meaning cactus fruit. The spirit of integration that has allowed the Jewish Diaspora to maintain their identity and traditions while embracing diversity – despite being displaced for 2000 years – is Israel’s strength.
I express my respect for President Rivlin’s leadership in opening an era of prosperity for an integrated Israel through his Four Tribes Initiative.
I propose a toast for the President’s good health and the everlasting friendship of our two countries. L'Chaim!