Address by President Nelson Mandela to the National Assembly of South Korea, Seoul

6 July 1995

Mr Speaker;
Honourable Members of the National Assembly;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

When we set out to honour the invitation by President Kim Young Sam to visit your country, we knew that the land of the morning calm would offer us many socio-economic lessons to learn. When we set foot on your soil, we were confident that a new partnership was being born between our two nations.

But we stand here today, before the representatives of the people of the Republic of Korea, to declare, that our expectations have been outdone by the reality of our concrete experiences. We leave your shores an inspired delegation, confident that the bond between our peoples is entering a new and glorious era.

I wish to thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity you have granted us to share views with your eminent deputies. Our appreciation is reinforced by the realisation that, by so doing, we are sharing views with the nation you represent.

If is profoundly opportune that our last engagement in your Republic should be in these august chambers.

For, to stand in the Kuk Hoe is to pay tribute to a product of on-going change. The birth of democracy and culture of human rights is finding expression in this National Assembly.

To stand before you in these hallowed chambers, Honourable Members, is to bear witness to a new world being born. This new era is one that eschews blind adherence to ideology as the basis of inter-state relations. It is one in which, at last, the sovereignty of nations - big and small - is accorded the respect it deserves. It is a world in which nations, jointly and severally, can concentrate on the basic challenge that humanity has grappled with for centuries: to improve people's well-being and ensure that they live in peace, prosperity and harmony.

Indeed, to stand before you is to pay tribute to a great future in the making - a future based on an abiding partnership between our two countries and the regions to which we belong.

History has so decreed that the early years of the new century will see the Asia-Pacific regions emerge as a world economic centre in its own right. Many analysts predict, with much justification, that more than half of the world's ten leading economies will be located in this region. And we are proud to be associated with you as we set out on the renaissance of our own country, our region and our continent.

Mr Speaker, Sir;

We render these words of praise because they are deeply felt by our own people; because your economic achievements are close to their hearts.

We sang these melodies to your success because, we too, are struggling to achieve the same economic ends. In paying tribute to you, we applaud humanity as a whole, for the support that it has given to the struggles for democracy in both our countries. Through their efforts, the world is steadily becoming a better and more caring home for all of us.

In the end, our people have shown that, no obstacle is too great, and no force too powerful, to withstand the might of a popular movement for democracy and human rights.

In our own country, great strides have already been made to set in place a new civilisation. From the mire of conflict, a new nation is being born, united in its rainbow splendour and enriched by its diversity. The spectre of division has given way to reconciliation. Sworn enemies of yesteryear have become partners in a new beginning. The cry for destruction and vengeance has given way to the song of forgiveness and a rational search for the truth.

In more ways than one, the people of South Korea contributed immensely to our own endeavours. Your own problems notwithstanding, you saw our needs as yours. The distance of geography notwithstanding, you reaffirmed to togetherness of the human race. For this, we thank you from the bottom of our hears.

However, in expressing our gratitude we are not merely reminiscing about a glorious past, gone and never to return. Rather, we do so to express our confidence in the future.

In our own country, Mr Speaker, the humble achievements we have made to entrench democracy are seen by the overwhelming majority of South Africans as the beginning of a long journey towards real freedom, security and human rights in the most complete sense. Thus, in unison, various shades of political thought, various classes and strata of society, all races, proclaim in no uncertain terms that the time for joint efforts to reconstruct and develop our country has come to pass.

This abiding national consensus finds expression in our democratic institutions, in the bodies in which business, labour and government plan together, on the shop floor and in the board-room. South Africans are at one that security and well-being should be a shared benefit of democracy, and not the rare privilege of a selected few.

This is the spirit behind our Reconstruction and Development Programme. Its central aim is to redress the imbalances created by apartheid and ensure that the basic needs of all citizens are met.

We are fully conscious that to achieve this, requires that we use our resources rationally and manage the nation's finances in a transparent and prudent manner. It means that we should implement socio-economic changes that we can sustain. It requires of us the utmost vigilance against the trappings of power and the arrogance and corruption that they can generate.

Mr Speaker;

In this our crusade, we are encouraged and reinforced not only by the express wishes of the people, but also by the attempts of your nation to achieve these ideals. Indeed, in our increasingly integrated world, the good in others does rub off to create a new world awareness and culture.

Yet it is in more than ideas that this should increasingly be the case. That is why we are encouraged by the growing trend of co-operation between our countries in matters economic. Despite the fact that our relations are at an early stage of development, there are encouraging signs that they can grow at a pace which will soon result in substantial all-round links between our two countries.

Today, South Korea is South Africa's 13th most important trading partner. Base metals and mineral products are presently South Africa's main exports, while your country brings to ours machinery, textile, clothing and appliances. Needless to say, an expansion of these relations will require bold action by the private and public sectors in our countries, Both in terms of re-examining our trade regimes and exploring the wide canvass of the potential that exists.

It will require more initiative in terms of investments in manufacturing and other job-creating ventures. We, in South Africa, are appreciative of the fact that Korean companies have started to set up shop in our country; some of them in such crucial projects as housing. The agreements that we signed yesterday on cultural, scientific and technical co-operation will certainly go a long way to ensure that we meet our common objectives.

In the short period that we have spent in your country, we have confirmed what our own people have long preached.

This is that foreign investments should be seen as a reinforcement of local initiative, rather than as the only source of capital. This requires confidence by local business in the future of the country; encouragement and utilisation of local savings; and emphasis on research, and development of human resources.

We have also confirmed that such rapid development as you have attained requires involvement as you have attained requires involvement of the ian and macro-economic balances. Above all, we are at one that democracy and human rights are not an anachronism to economic success.

South Africa, Mr Speaker, is keenly following the new course that the Republic of Korea has adopted in international relations.

On our part, we are building strong co-operative relations with our neighbours on the south of the African continent. Major steps towards all-round integration have been taken, providing both investment opportunities and a large and dynamic market. It is only natural that the Republic of Korea and other economies in this region should see Southern Africa as a partner whose mutual affinity can only grow from strength to strength.

In this regard, we value and nurture peace in our region to the same extent as we cherish these ideals in your environs. With the Korean people, we share the dream that, sooner rather than later, the division imposed on your people by the vagaries of a by-gone era will be eliminated. South Africa fully support the efforts to resolve this problem in a peaceful manner. Thus, can the aberration of an anomalous era be consigned to the history books.

Mr Speaker and Honourable Members;

More often than not, we perceive of distant countries and continents as a world apart, as repositories of cultures at which we can only marvel. Yet as we transcend this narrow outlook, we come to learn that it is more than the technology of the current global village which makes us neighbours. It is above all our common humanity, our common hopes, our common dreams for peace, justice and democracy.

We depart from your shores reinforced in this conviction. And, when we reach home, we shall relate the tales of a friendly people who are our brothers

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation