Speech to Sungkyunkwan University

Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

Seoul, Republic of Korea

18 October 2013

Mr Chung, thank you for your warm welcome to SKK University. I am delighted to be here and acknowledge distinguished guests, professors and students who attend this morning.

I am really pleased to have a chance to address your University on this, my first visit to South Korea as Australia's Foreign Minister and indeed my first visit to East Asia's oldest university. I am visiting Korea to take part in the Seoul Cyberspace Conference which has highlighted Korea's commitment to what your President Park has called a creative economy. I last visited Korea about four years ago, in November 2009, when I was the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. You have to go through an understudy for this role. And even in that short space of time, I can see the impressive changes in Korea.

I have been delighted to spend much my time in Seoul in the famous Gangnam. By the way, you will be delighted to know that Psy was in Australia in March this year for Future Music Festival and he was promoting K-pop which really is taking off. To think 1.8 billion hits on YouTube for Gangnam style. That has to be global phenomenon.

I have had the pleasure of meeting President Park, a leader I greatly admire and have had a series of meetings with your Foreign minister Yun. As a measure of how close our countries are I can report I have now met Foreign minister Yun on five times in the four weeks that I have been Foreign Minister. I am not sure we would be able to maintain that average. We just take to text or tweet to keep in touch.

And while this is my first visit to your historic campus. I am by no means the first Australian woman to address an audience of bright young Korean students. That honour may well belong to Belle Menzies, an Australian missionary who helped open Korea's first girl's school – Busanjinllsin Girls' School – in Busan in 1895.

Now Belle Menzies' nephew was Robert Menzies – a very famous name in Australia – for he became Australia's longest serving Prime Minister between 1949 and 1966. That is a little slice of information underlines historical links between our two countries which have developed into today's strong economic and security partnership.

It also reminds us of Korea's strong emphasis on education, clearly evident in the 600 year old history of this University. Yours is now one of the most highly educated countries in the world and Australia has contributed to that through the many Korean graduates from our educational institutions.

Australia and Korea – two middle powers – are natural partners economically, politically and strategically. We are both strong allies of the United States. We are both deeply integrated into the regional economy. What Korea has, we want to buy. Be it flat-screen TVs or fuel efficient cars, or LNG bulk carriers. What Australia has, Korean wants, from iron ore and LNG, to beef products and an education experience. I also believe that Australians and Koreans have much in common culturally. We can share a laugh and we just love to win on the sporting field.

And Australia's new government is focused on further improving our relationship and building even closer links between our people. I am confident for example we will sign a Free Trade Agreement which reduces barriers to trade and investment between our countries. And on the security front we will continue to support South Korea in the face of provocation and aggression from the North.

Australia's approach to foreign and trade policy is one that puts economic diplomacy at the heart of our international engagement and by economic diplomacy, I mean aligning our foreign and trade policies to help create jobs and boost incomes and reduce economic insecurity. So that means putting our diplomatic assets to the service of our economic interests. In a globalized world, that means supporting economic reform, pushing strongly for trade liberalisation, free markets, liberal foreign investment policies and supporting a vibrant business sector.

For example, after the failed WTO meeting, the World Trade Organisation meeting in 1999, Australia changed approach to trade policy, pursuing bilateral and regional free trade agreements instead of a global trade agreement and this built on the WTO's progress to secure faster, real commercial benefits for Australian exporters and importers.

So the FTAs that have been concluded by the Government with Singapore, Thailand and the United States and others have delivered real outcomes. These deals sound very legalistic, very technical but they make a real difference to people's lives because they are a win-win. They boost the living standards of people in both countries by increasing trade and investment.

Australia and Korea are natural partners. We have an economic relationship that is mutually beneficial. Of the G20 economies Australia and Korea are among the few to avoid recession in recent years. Our bilateral trade of $32 billion last year delivered huge benefits to both countries. Our natural partnership is neatly captured in this example by an anecdote about Australia's gas export industry. The gas is of course embedded in Australia. The company that extracts the gas is largely Australian owned but has a Korean investor.

The floating natural gas platform- so big that it would dwarf an aircraft carrier – it uses five times as much steel as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That is made in Korea. As is the giant ship that transports the gas to Korea. So the end result is thousands of jobs in Korean and Australia. A healthy return on investment for Korean and Australian companies, and of course a reliable source of energy for Korea.

While Australia of course isn't a market on the scale of China, we are still a lucrative market of 23 million people with the world's fifth highest per-capita incomes. This makes us the fourth largest economy in Asia. Only China, Japan and India are larger. Korea's cutting-edge exports thrill Australians. Korea is our third-largest export destination. We are Korea's number one source of iron ore, coal, beef and sugar.

While this merchandise trade has been the backbone of the economic relationship, the regional economy is becoming more deeply integrated through rising investment and services trade. Vast production and distribution chains now define the regional economy. And these forces are also driving the future of our economic relationship. So, the finalization of the Free Trade Agreement would respond to these changes, opening new business opportunities in financial and legal services for example, education, telecommunications and others.

These growing investment links will bind our economies and our societies more tightly, further benefiting our broader bilateral relationship. And under the Free Trade Agreement, Korean business would also benefit through better access to millions of Australians who are eager to consume Korean exports.

However, the core of our partnership is beyond the big numbers of trade statistics lies within our shared history. Australia demonstrated the depth of its commitment to South Korea in the Korea War. Over seventeen thousand Australians fought in the Korean War and 340 died. About 280 are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery Korea in Busan and around 40 remain missing in action. Our commitment to the Republic of Korea continues to this day.

Australia is the largest contributor to Korean military exercises behind the US. And, knowing our common interest and close ties, whether in the strategic or economic field, earlier this year our two countries started a 2+2 meeting process. This is a regular dialogue between Foreign and Defence ministers in each country. No other country apart from United States has a 2+2 meeting with South Korea.

Australia has compelling interests in the North-East Asian region. Three of our top four trading partners, China, Japan and Korea are all in North-East Asia and many of our citizens maintain strong connections to their East-Asian countries of origin.

Australia has a real stake in this region: it's our neighbourhood too. We share South Korea's concerns over the threat posed by North Korea and stand with you in confronting those threats.

The North's nuclear weapons and missiles threaten your country and they could also threaten countries as far Australia. Beyond the threat to any one nation, aggressive actions by the North also raise the prospect of a wider regional destabilisation. With our regional prosperity built on decades of peace, that is a threat we must never accept.

Through the Australian Ambassador, Ambassador Bill Paterson, who visits Pyongyang from time to time enable to him to send a message from Australia that the North should stop their nuclear weapons program and invest in the livelihoods of their people.

We give humanitarian assistance through the UN because we know many North Koreans, through no fault of their own, face dire circumstances and are severely malnourished. A prominent Australian, former high court judge Michael Kirby is leading a UN committee of inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea.

I am not optimistic that circumstances will change in North Korea any time soon. Indeed its threatening language to your country and others earlier this year was deeply concerning.

But I am very pleased that our countries worked together on the Security Council earlier this year to get a much stronger resolution with targeted sanctions after the North Korean nuclear test. I have also been impressed by the thoughtful and principled approach taken by President Park in her handing of the North Korean issue through her "Trust Politik".

We believe it's been the right approach to stand firm in the face of threats, while making clear that help from South Korea is there for North Korea in the right circumstances.

Our natural partnership extends well belong the bilateral realm. As two middle powers it is in our joint interests to work together in multilateral forums. President Park has underlined the importance of Korea working together with other countries as a middle power.

In fact, at the UNGA last month, the foreign ministers from Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia met. We call ourselves MIKTA – obvious. And we discussed mutual concerns as middle powers in our respective regions and we intend to meet regularly before other multilateral forums and summits, because we share a common attitude and approach to so many regional and global issues.

Multilateral work can often be frustrating and slow. And we need to find ways to make the multilateral system work better, whether it's at the UN or at the WTO with its stalled round of negotiations for greater global trade liberalisation.

That's why I'm so pleased that Australia and Korea are working so closely together on security issues at the UNSC.

As members of the UNSC until the end of next year, we're working together to advance peace and security in the region, and internationally.

I had the opportunity to take the chair of the UNSC in September, just days after being sworn in. It's not a bad gig, you get sworn in as Foreign Minister on Wednesday and on Monday you're chairing the UNSC. I just assume that's what Foreign Ministers do.

And like Korea did in 2010, next year, Australia will chair the G20. We already cooperate closely on the G20 basket of issues, including global economic governance and on climate change. The challenge for the G20 will be in showing its relevance beyond responding to, for example, the global financial crisis in 2008. And so our G20 host year will provide Australia with an opportunity to further deepen the cooperation with the G20 countries, including Korea and to achieve results in our joint interests.

So I'm really looking forward to working closely with Korea in the G20 and our Prime Minister is certainly looking forward to welcoming President Park to Brisbane in November next year.

Given where I'm standing today, it only seems appropriate that I include in my speech some words on education. That is another area that is so critical to the future success of our region, where Australia and Korea are natural partners.

Australia has a world-class education sector. As the professor pointed out, according to the latest Times education world university rankings, that were released this month, Australia has five of our 39 universities in the top 100, and 12 of our 39 universities in the top 300.

As a reflection of our academic capacity, Australians have received 12 Nobel Prizes, 11 in the sciences and medicine and one for literature. Koreans are benefiting from the strength of our tertiary education by studying in Australian institutions in ever greater numbers.

Currently, there are around 24,000 Korean students studying in Australia and these students will graduate with globally recognised qualifications and return to Korea, hopefully to contribute to the ongoing success of this country.

And it's pleasing to know that we have an increasing number of Australian alumni in Korea in senior roles.

Australia's ability to deliver first rate education extends beyond university, to our vocational education training system, which I understand has impressed Korean observers as the Park administration seeks to improve the education system here.

Australia also has much to learn from Korea's focus on education, particularly in the area of school education, where Korea consistently rates highly in terms of world measures.

Together, I believe we can work to undertake cutting edge joint research to make our region and the world a better place.

I'm pleased to note that many universities in Australia are partnered with your university and other prominent universities in Korea.

Recently a number of universities from both countries have joined forces to develop joint PhD, masters and research programs.

In addition to students, many thousands of Koreans visit Australia each year to explore our wide open spaces and our cosmopolitan cities including 35,000 who come through the working holiday program and many who come to study English.

And when Koreans visit Australia, they can always find a little bit of home.

Australia's Korean diaspora community numbers almost 90,000 and they are very active and enthusiastic members of the Australian community.

As but two examples, Korean Australians have risen to the upper echelons of our diplomatic service.

Pablo Kang has been the Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and James Choi who has just finished as our Ambassador in Denmark, and he's made a vitally important career change, for he's now my senior advisor and he's here with us today. And he's a very good runner, and I can attest to that fact, because today we decided to make the run to the telecommunications tower and he was there way ahead of me.

Australians are also living and thriving in Korea – think of Sam Hammington, arguably the most famous foreign comedian here. They tell me he's a comedian, he stars in the reality TV show "Real Men". Now that's bringing a bit of Aussie style to Korean culture.

And Barry Marshall, one of Australia's famous Nobel laureates, well known for discovering the Helicobacter Pylori as the cause of various stomach illnesses. Now, he comes from my electorate in Perth, WA and he tells me that when he came to Korea and visited here as the Nobel laureate in 2011, he received a rock star welcome.

It was quite a come-down for him to return to Australia where he was just a Nobel laureate, but here in Korea he was made to feel very special. I think he's probably more well known for his Yakult commercials, somehow.

Professor Chung mentioned that I was the Education Minister in the previous Howard government and in 2006 I held an inaugural international education conference, because at that time Australia was wishing to showcase education opportunities in our country. I invited representatives from about 26 Asian countries to come to Brisbane and there I was to convince them to send more students to Australia.

At that time there were about 400,000 students studying in Australia. Well, during the course of that conference I was informed on more than one occasion, that while tens of thousands of students were coming to Australia, indeed hundreds of thousands were coming to Australia, relatively few were going back.

And if Australians did study overseas, it tended to be in the US.

So I decided then and there that if I got the opportunity, I would reverse that trend and provide opportunities, for young Australians to study in our region. Well, now as Foreign Minister in a new government, my dream is coming true. We have announced that we will establish a student program we have dubbed the New Colombo Plan and it will be a national government backed scholarship scheme to provide opportunities to young Australians in their undergraduate year to spend at least a semester studying in a university in our region.

And we've called it the New Colombo Plan because the original Colombo Plan ran from the 1950s to the 1980s and that brought students to Australia. In fact, over that 30 year period 40,000 students from the region came to live and study in Australia.

And as I travelled around the region, I'm always struck by the number of politicians, business leaders, community leaders, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers who are Colombo plan alumni. And their experience and their understanding of Australia comes from that period, when they studied in Australian universities. So we want to reverse that and ensure our students also engage and immerse themselves in Asian culture, become more Asian literate, learn the language, live, study here.

We want to be a rite of passage over time so that young Australian undergraduates attending an Australian university can assume they have opportunity to study in a university in the region. We're conducting a pilot program next year to address all of the challenges that will inevitably crop up and we hope to invite Korea to join our new Colombo plan 2015.

In that way, young people will come home with that experience, with new perspectives and new ideas, be far more enlightened, they would be able to add to the productivity and prosperity of Australia but also to the region. And I can't think of a better way to spend Federal government money than by investing in young people for their future and their engagement with Korea would ensure this bilateral relationship endures.

So in conclusion, I wish you the very best for your studies and after you leave university and you make your way in the world, remember that your country, Korea has an enduring partnership with my country Australia, and may you make and retain many Australian friends along your journey in life.

Thank you

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