Celebrating the 4,352nd anniversary of the Korean National Foundation Day

by Dr Jong-Dae Park, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea

2 October 2020

We hope that you and your family and friends are all keeping well in these unprecedented times. This year, we have had to deal with the new circumstances, and sadly, we lost some of our close South African friends along the way.

If we were in normal circumstances, you would certainly already have been invited to join us in celebrating the4,352nd anniversary of the Korean National Foundation Day and the 72nd anniversary of Armed Forces Day at our Residence. Indeed, this would have been my third and last national day reception I would host as the Korean Ambassador to South Africa, and in this regard, this would have been very special kairos moments to me personally.

It is not only I but indeed all of us at the Embassy. Surely you are also missing the atmosphere, gathering under the full-blooming Jacaranda trees in our Residence garden, with pleasant weather, clear and blue skies, having a glass of superb South African wine, chatting and hugging, and having Korean cuisine such as Bulgoki, Kimbap and Kimchi. Many of our South African friends have expressed their feelings of missing our cultural activities, like our monthly Korean film nights, our annual Korean Film & Food Festival in Centurion, and our annual K-pop and Korean essay contests, etc.

You might remember last year's charity fundraising event, "Diplomatic International Cultural Day & Hanbok Promotion Event" held on 30 September in our embassy chancery, where more than 30 Embassies participated in the event, showcasing their traditional costumes and performing their traditional dances. It was a very successful and meaningful event at which many ambassadors participated wearing traditional costumes.

During my tenure in South Africa, I have been very fortunate to meet and work with many South African friends, colleagues, and partners who are hospitable and supportive of our embassy's endeavours. Among others, it was my great pleasure to witness that Korean­ South African ties are reaching new heights after the G20 Summit in Argentina in December 2018, where Korea's President, His Excellency Moon Jae-In and His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa held a bilateral meeting for the first time.

On 24 April this year President Cyril Ramaphosa had a telephonic discussion with President Moon Jae-In, who expressed support in helping South Africa's fight against COVID-19. Since then, many tons of mielie meal, thousands and thousands of face masks, tons of disinfectants and thousands of COVID-19 test kits were donated to South Africa by the Korean government, Korean communities in South Africa and Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics, KEPCO, GP&E, Polaris Shipping and Nexen Tire, which are currently operating in South Africa.

We have been impressed by the South African government's efforts in fighting against COVID-19, its flexible measures in applying lockdown regulations to ease economic tensions and providing multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities. Recently, newly confirmed and active cases in South Africa are declining across the country, which is a good news for all of us.

However, for health and safety precautions for COVID-19, we are still encouraged and obliged to wear face masks and to maintain social distancing until an effective treatment and vaccine are found. In this context, we chose to reach you with this letter conveying our concern, deep gratitude and our longing for the way of life we so enjoyed before the pandemic hit the world so hard.

Taking this opportunity we would like to extend our deepest gratitude and a heartfelt "thank you" to all our South African friends for your friendship, co-operation, kind assistance and invaluable support this year. Without your proper and timely assistance, we would have been totally unable to repatriate many hundreds of stranded Korean citizens in South Africa as well as those who were in Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana and even Mozambique under the strict lockdown regulations and border closures.

We would like to pay our special thanks to the Germany Embassy, notably to H.E. Ambassador, Dr Martin Schafer, to the Japanese Embassy, notably to H.E. Ambassador, Mr Norio Maruyama, and to the Qatari Embassy, notably to H.E. Ambassador, Mr Tariq Bin Ali Faraj Al-Ansari, for their invaluable assistance rendered to our embassy and Korean citizens during the early repatriation process.
When we requested a relaxation of the lockdown restrictions to allow international travel via repatriation flights into South Africa for those who had critical skills, like engineers and experts in special areas, DIRCO, the DTIC and DHA responded promptly to our requests, and many of them were issued with visas and permission to travel to South Africa.

We are truly grateful and indebted to all those who have gone the extra mile for good causes. We hope this kind of collaboration should serve as a good example for others that we all care for and co-operate with each other, not only in bilateral relations, but also in multilateral relations. We will prevail and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic if all countries pull together through solidarity and co-operation.

We wish to thank you all who are fighting against COVID-19 in South Africa. Until we win the battle against COVID-19, we hope you stay safe and healthy. We further hope that everyone's life returns to normal again soon so that we can again celebrate together, face­ to face, our National Foundation Day in wonderful Spring weather in 2021.