My Visit To Korea

 Prime Minister’s weekly column 

Late last month I traveled to South Korea with a group of New Zealand veterans to take part in commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. This was my third visit to the country in four and a half years as Prime Minister. Personally, it was a great privilege to accompany the veterans whose service helped to bring about the freedom, democracy and prosperity of modern day Korea. Over 6,000 New Zealand army and navy personnel took part in the Korean War. Forty-five lost their lives and 79 were wounded. The commemorations were an opportunity to reflect on their sacrifice, which we remember with immense gratitude decades on. Today, New Zealand enjoys a close, strong and successful relationship with Korea. In many respects, this is thanks to the pioneering role that our troops played – they arrived in Korea long before the first diplomats, business people or teachers from New Zealand – and their contribution is still greatly appreciated by the Korean government and people. The relationship between our two countries is based on friendship and a shared set of values. We enjoy high level political contacts, strong people linkages and important collaboration across a diverse range of areas. During my visit, I met with President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House in Seoul. Our talks covered many fields of cooperation, including trade, tourism, science and technology, and defence. We also discussed the way forward in our two countries’ negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA). An FTA would be a win-win for both partners. It can help both our countries to achieve economic growth and prosperity. In particular, both President Park and I want to promote growth opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, and removing tariffs and other barriers to trade is a great way to improve margins and spark new business. I have invited President Park to make an official visit to New Zealand in the near future, and I look forward to seeing our two countries grow even closer in the years to come.