[Letters] Toward better Korea-UK ties

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[Letters] Toward better Korea-UK ties

The Korea JoongAng Daily’s recent article on the arrangements for journalists during President Park Geun-hye’s state visit contains a regrettable misrepresentation of events and detracts from what was a highly successful visit that encapsulated the close partnership between two great friends and allies.

The security of Her Majesty the Queen, President Park and the other official guests was, as it should be, the principal concern of the U.K. authorities. Regrettably, not every aspect of the Horse Guards Parade event went as smoothly as it might and the lessons will be learnt. It is a common courtesy at the official welcoming ceremony for a state visit in the U.K. for the media and guests to delay their departure until senior dignitaries depart. We were grateful for the Korean media’s adherence to this standard protocol.

In relation to the arrangements at Heathrow Airport, I must take this opportunity to clarify. The schedule for the visit - agreed by both sides - made it clear that members of the media should leave their hotel by 8 a.m. in order to avoid delaying the president’s departure to Belgium. Despite this advice being repeated, on several occasions, a briefing of the Korean media began at the hotel at 8 a.m. This was over the strong objections of U.K. officials who wanted to ensure a smooth and timely departure for the president and her party. This unscheduled addition to the program in turn led to a late departure from the hotel and was the sole reason for the president’s subsequent delay.

The United Kingdom welcomes approximately 30 million visitors every year. These visitors enjoy our heritage and hospitality. We are also one of the most diverse and inclusive nations in the world. It is therefore regrettable and offensive to infer that any of the standard protocol arrangements could be attributed to racism.

President Park’s state visit to the United Kingdom was a celebration of the deep and close ties that exist between our two countries. For 130 years, we have developed a partnership built on shared values and principles. Our troops stood side-by-side during the 1950-53 Korean War and more than 1000 British servicemen fell in that tragic conflict.

Today, we work together at the United Nations, and bilaterally, on some of the greatest challenges to global peace and security. Our trade relationship is worth £6.4 billion ($10.3 billion) in goods and services alone and is expanding rapidly. During President Park’s visit, we shone a spotlight on the political and economic ties and the shared values that run so deep between us. We concluded more than 20 Memoranda of Understanding, boosting cooperation in creative industries, science and health care. We set out our ambition to double trade by 2020 and established a Joint Economic and Trade Committee and CEO Forum to help us achieve that goal. The state visit looked great, but it also delivered on substance.

These are the achievements that most Korean journalists celebrated and documented.

by Colin Gray Spokesperson of the British Embassy Seoul
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