Republic of Korea keen to draw on SA's experience

Monday, July 15, 2019

South Africa’s experience with transitioning to democratic rule following years of apartheid is an important lesson that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea want to draw from, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said on Monday.

“The DPRK and the Republic of Korea [ROK], with support from the USA, have begun a process of discussing peace and greater interaction between themselves. The South African experience of negotiating peace and arriving at an outcome that includes everyone in our country is regarded by them as very important political experience.

“Our ability to engage in negotiations that end civil strife and conflict is regarded as the most important lesson for the two Koreas and they are hoping to draw on what we have done and use that as they engage with each other in the North and the South,” the Minister told SAnews

Pandor’s comments followed her meeting with ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at OR Tambo’s International Airport’s Protocol Lounge on Monday.

In January last year, South Africa welcomed the first high-level bilateral meeting between the two East Asian neighbouring countries. The January meeting was the first in almost two years between the two countries. 

South Africa, in line with its foreign policy, has consistently called for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Pretoria firmly believes that nuclear weapons and the pursuance of such capabilities do not enhance security but rather constitute a source of regional and international insecurity.

The Minister outlined her bilateral talks with Kang.

“We had a brief interaction with her in Osaka [in Japan] on the margins of the G20 meeting. I felt that we were kindred spirits... This meeting has shown that off very clearly.”

Pandor said that ROK parties came to the meeting with a clear sense of the areas in which they wish to have engagement and cooperation with South Africa and that “this was in line with our own aspirations for this meeting”.

Kang, she said, is pursuing a partnership with the African continent and regards South Africa as an anchor country in that process.

“[ROK] wishes to strengthen the relationship with South Africa in order to broaden and improve their collaboration with the rest of the continent,” Pandor said.

The Minister was thrilled that ROK, which established diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1992, has shown its commitment towards the African Union Peace Fund.

“That is an important commitment which South Africa has also made. It’s an area of great need for our continent -- having a partner that is actually making financial contributions to the fund and thus a commitment to us achieving peace on the continent and ending conflict, is for me a really important recognition of what we need to achieve on the continent,” said Pandor.

The Fund was established in 1993 under Art 21 of the protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council of the AU to finance the AU’s peace and security operations. 

Inclusivity and success 

In her opening remarks during the meeting, Pandor highlighted that South Africa admires the successes seen by ROK in areas such as education, telecommunications and the automotive sector.

Kang said her country is working towards achieving inclusivity in its society.

“As we sought economic development, we have been less focused on the inclusive side of things. To be truly innovative, you have to include the diversity and talent that lies within the population. So it works both ways -- you’ve got to keep it that way,” said Kang, who arrived in South Africa on Sunday.

Kang is hopeful that she and her counterpart will soon hold their first Ministerial Joint Commission.

“The meeting between our Presidents last year on the sidelines of the G20 [showed] there is good political will at the top,” said Kang, who is in South Africa on a working visit.

The ROK is South Africa’s fourth largest trading partner in Asia, and South Africa is the largest trading partner in the ROK in Africa. -