The Korea Herald


FULL TEXT: Justin Trudeau’s address to the National Assembly

By Kim Arin

Published : May 17, 2023 - 20:20

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers an address to the South Korean National Assembly on Wednessday. (Yonhap) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers an address to the South Korean National Assembly on Wednessday. (Yonhap)

The following is the text version of the address given by Justin Trudeau to South Korea’s National Assembly on Wednesday, transcribed and copyedited by The Korea Herald. -- Ed.

Hello everyone. Annyeonghaseyo (“Hello” in Korean). Gamsahabnida (“Thank you”). I want to begin by thanking the speaker of the National Assembly, Kim Jin-pyo, and the secretary general of the National Assembly, Lee Kwang-jae, for their warm welcome. All esteemed members, it is an honor for me to speak here today at the National Assembly -- the seat of Korean democracy.

The Republic of Korea is a beacon of democracy. Your democracy is resilient, it is hard won, with the blood and sacrifice of Koreans. As I stand here with you today, I recognize the importance of this week and its significance. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Gwangju democratization movement, when 43 years ago, demonstrators, students, workers and citizens gave voice to a deep-seated desire for democracy. It was a long fight but ultimately freedom prevailed. And now, the ROK is one of the most successful and vibrant democracies in the world, and each and every one of you in this chamber plays a key role within it. Thank you.

Throughout our history, the ROK and Canada have together faced difficult moments. Between 1950 and 1953, close to 27,000 Canadian soldiers arrived on the Korean Peninsula. They fought in the hills above the Gapyeong valley, they fought on the frontlines around Hill 355. Some of our soldiers were laid to rest at the United Nations memorial cemetery in Busan alongside soldiers from the ROK, and from around the world.

And since the war, the friendship between our two countries has only grown stronger. We have deep trade ties, with eight years of free trade between our economies through the Canada-Korea free trade agreement. We also share dynamic ties between our people -- ties that are meaningful for me personally. You see, when my father was prime minister, it was he who opened the first Canadian embassy in Seoul in 1973. It is a fact that the son of the Korean ambassador to Canada on that day is now my senior policy advisor and here with us today.

And if you are surprised by this story, you shouldn’t be, that’s the kind of thing that happens in Canada all the time. Every day, Canadians of Korean origin are enriching and shaping and building a stronger Canada. We have the world’s fourth-largest Korean diaspora. We welcome thousands of Korean students to our universities every year. Our scientists, innovators, academics are collaborating to find solutions to common challenges. Our artistic communities are thriving together as well. Canada has embraced the Korean Wave and for many Canadian artists, Korea has become a necessary destination. "Kim’s Convenience," the story of a Korean Canadian family, is one of the most beloved TV series in Canada. The economic, social and cultural histories of our two great nations are interwoven and so are our futures.

This is why President Yoon and I agreed to upgrade our relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership with shared priorities based on common values and interests.

I may be here today to celebrate the 60 years of diplomatic relations between our countries. But the truth is, Koreans and Canadians have been friends for much longer than that. I mentioned the war, but I also think of Dr. Frank Schofield, who joined the Korean resistance during the painful decades of colonialism. I visited his grave this morning. I’m deeply grateful that you consider him to be one of the Korean patriots. Dr. Schofield’s legacy embodies the depth and the strength of our friendship.

I’m proud to be the latest Canadian to celebrate this friendship, but I’m here to tell you it’s no longer enough to be friends. We need to be the best of friends.

You see right now, our world is facing a moment of uncertainty like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes. We’re still reeling from the consequences of an unprecedented global pandemic. Rising costs of living are putting real stress on families. Despite job growth and wage growth, there is a lot of economic anxiety for families. Climate change is having a real and terrifying impact on people’s lives. War has returned to Europe with effects on global supply chain and energy markets. Antagonistic states around the world are using our economic interdependence for their own geopolitical advantage. Authoritarianism is gaining ground. You are frontline witnesses to regular military provocations by North Korea that cause instability on the peninsula, in the north Pacific region, and around the world.

It has never been more clear that everything is interwoven -- that climate policy is economic policy, security policy and social policy. Our citizens need us to think strategically and act with urgency. And in this consequential moment, we must find solutions together as the best of friends.

Members of the South Korean National Assembly rise in an ovation to Trudeau at the end of his address. (Yonhap) Members of the South Korean National Assembly rise in an ovation to Trudeau at the end of his address. (Yonhap)

We must find solutions to grow our economies while protecting the environment. I want to recognize the leadership you have taken as a member of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. Korean leadership helped us reach a historic agreement to protect biodiversity at COP 15 last December in my hometown of Montreal. You also launched an ambitious national policy ban on disposable items, and in Canada we banned harmful plastics too. As coastal countries, we don’t want to see garbage washing up on our beaches or in our waters.

Canada and Korea are neighbors across the Pacific. Our trade corridor should be a green corridor. Together, we can make our economies cleaner, and create good jobs for our people. We’ve done it in the past already. Canada and Korea have been working together on nuclear energy ever since the first CANDU reactor started operations at Wolseong nuclear plant in 1983. Korea is a leader in nuclear energy and we are going to keep collaborating on this zero-emissions energy source. .... And while we do, we can keep coming up with a whole range of solutions that a net-zero world will need.

And this isn’t just aspirational thinking. Workers in Canada across our electric vehicle supply chain are at work right now, at mine sites, in assembly lines and in R&D labs. In just the past year, major international companies have announced generational investments in Canada. Some are upgrading and retooling their assembly plants so that they can manufacture electric vehicles. Others are going to produce batteries. Batteries represent between 30 and 40 percent of the production cost of electric vehicles. You know this well because Korea is already a leader in battery manufacturing. You also know that with global demand for electric vehicles shooting up, year after year, this is where the market is going.

In Canada, our government saw what was coming with climate change and the trillions of dollars of global investment that we’re lining up to build a clean economy. We led the way, by putting a price on pollution while giving more money back to families. We invested massively in decarbonization projects, like one for example that is ensuring Canada will make some of the cleanest steel in the world. And we’re continuing to invest to make sure we secure good jobs for Canadians for generations to come. Just back in January, I visited a plant that’s getting retooled to build electric vehicles and hybrid cars. I met a worker named Carl, one of the youngest team leaders there. He runs a door manufacturing line for hybrids. Like so many others, Carl worries about the future and whether his job or whether his plant will be there for him in a rapidly shifting world. He now knows because of our government’s investments he will be able to continue developing his career in his community into the future.

See, I bring up Carl because I know there are Carls around the world. There are workers just like him here in Korea in good jobs on assembly lines who worry that global factors beyond their control -- some troublingly close, some on the other side of the world -- will lead to economic shifts that could shift them right out of that good job that supports their family. Everywhere the future is filled with uncertainty and anxiety for our citizens. But when we strengthen our supply chains, when we partner with like-minded allies, when we invest strategically in the economy of tomorrow, our workers, our citizens will all benefit.

To fight climate change, Canada is also working with partners to accelerate the global transition from coal to clean energy. Together with the UK, we’ve launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of governments, businesses and organizations committed to accelerating clean growth and environmental protection. Eight of your provincial and local governments representing 80 percent of the country’s coal capacity have joined the alliance. Not only does Canada welcome the decision by the Korean government to end external financing for coal-fired power plants abroad and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, our work together can support it. I think about LNG Canada in British Columbia with KOGAS as a joint-venture participant, that will help replace not only Russian natural gas but also coal use. I think about Canada’s Northland Power which is developing Korean offshore wind projects with over 3 gigawatt capacity, which is a lot of clean, sustainable power.

This is how we can build a sustainable future together. Canada is ready to strengthen our partnership with Korea on everything from critical minerals to high-tech innovation to clean energy solutions.

This will be at the core of our discussions later today when I spend a few hours with President Yoon. But as we build clean economies, we have to make sure that everyone benefits. In Canada we have great resources, we have ambitious, educated workers and our immigration policies are attracting highly skilled talent. We have the democratic values that make us reliable especially for partners like Korea which share the same values and principles. And most of all, we treat people with the respect and the dignity they deserve. For example as we develop the clean economy that I was talking about, we are partnering with the Indigenous peoples of Canada. We’re making sure our middle class will get good strong jobs right across the country. We're supporting small businesses. Koreans know small businesses are at the heart of our communities. This is why last year you passed two supplemental budgets to help small businesses hit by the pandemic including the largest-ever extra budget. You know how much small businesses matter. That‘s why we‘re stepping up together. We‘re investing in education, in skills. We know from the Korean example how sustainable success must be founded on education. Through visionary training programs, you‘re nurturing digital talent for future labor markets in key areas such as AI, big data, cybersecurity. In Canada we're investing in these fields too. When President Yoon visited the University of Toronto last September, he recognized Canada as a center of the global AI supply chain.

Our long-term prosperity depends on inclusive public policies which allow everyone to play an active and meaningful role in society. That’s why our government is investing in health care, in dental care and in child care. We are already seeing the results. By rolling out a 10-dollar-a-day child care program, we’ve seen women’s participation in the economy reach an all-time high. I know that Korea is also working on a plan to expand child care options. Because it’s so important to support parents in balancing their career and family commitments. Because inclusion, gender equality and support for families make our societies stronger and make our democracies healthier.

Of course if we want to build a more prosperous future for our peoples, we have to continue defending peace, human rights and the rules-based international order. Stability in the north Pacific is essential to global stability. This is one of the reasons why we released our Indo-Pacific Strategy last fall, in which Canada committed to increase not just our trade but also our military engagement as a means of mitigating threats to regional security. In March, we announced that we’d extend Operation NEON until 2026. As some of you may know, Operation NEON is Canada’s contribution to support the implementation of the UN Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea. Canada is committed to supporting the Republic of Korea’s efforts towards a denuclearized, peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula. We will continue to call on North Korea to return to dialogue and diplomacy.

We’re also supportive of the work of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we are committed to increasing our cooperation with the Republic of Korea to help advancing the human rights situation in North Korea.

Canada and Korea must continue to lead both on the world stage and at home. And to lead is to choose, just like Koreans chose to fight for democracy during the Gwangju democratization movement 43 years ago. Gwangju serves as a reminder that democracy in Korea didn’t happen by accident. Democracy never happens by accident. It certainly doesn’t continue without effort. At its best, democracy will always be stronger than authoritarianism. But to be at our best requires constant work. Nativism, cynicism, polarization, misinformation, disinformation, declining voter turnout -- these are all challenges we are facing in our countries one way or another.

So as leaders, we need to choose to rebuild trust. When people no longer trust in the idea of progress, the idea that the next generation will do even better than this one -- that’s when they begin to lose faith in our institutions. The best way to rebuild is to trust. It’s to always put people first. To put people’s dignity, their rights, their environment, their future at the center of everything we do as policy makers and as champions of democracy. That’s how we deliver on the promise of progress for everyone. And that’s how we will meet this consequential moment together.

Earlier, I mentioned the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between our two countries. In Korean culture, the age of 60 signifies the completion of one cycle and the beginning of another one.

In the spirit of “hwangab” (one’s “sixtieth birthday” in Korean), let us renew our shared commitment and start a new cycle of peace, prosperity and sustainability as the very best of friends. Gamsahabnida. Thank you very much.