PM Lee Hsien Loong's Toast Speech at the Official Lunch hosted by ROK President Moon Jae-In

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 23 November 2019

Toast Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch hosted by ROK President Moon Jae-in on 23 November 2019.

Your Excellency President Moon Jae-in

First Lady Mdm Kim Jung-sook
Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Ho Ching and I would like to thank President Moon and First Lady Kim for your warm welcome and hospitality. We are delighted to be back in the Republic of Korea (ROK), with whom Singapore shares a close and longstanding friendship. I first visited South Korea in 1982. It is 37 years ago. Since then I have come back many times, and on each trip, I have seen how the ROK has progressed further as a country. Compared to what it was 37 years ago, it is a total change.

Today, Korea is not only one of Asia’s economic powerhouses, but also a global leader in industrial and digital innovation. Korea topped the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the sixth consecutive year. You are a pioneer in 5G technology as well as the Internet of Things, and also forging ahead in smart city development.

Therefore, it is good that we are looking beyond trade and investment, which are our traditional areas of cooperation. We are broadening our bilateral cooperation to new areas including cybersecurity, fintech and advanced manufacturing. We discussed some of these new areas when President Moon and I met earlier. We witnessed and exchanged MOUs which will cover these new areas.

Beyond business, people-to-people relations are also growing. Over the last decade, as you heard from the President, our tourism numbers have more than doubled, to reach 860,000 last year. Many Korean tourists visit the Merlion Park at Marina Bay and many Singaporean tourists are attracted by Korean culture. They want to see the places in the Korean dramas, and want to watch their K-Pop idols perform at concerts here. Ho Ching and I were also part of these statistics, because we came here on holiday in 2015. We visited Seoul, and many other scenic places on the east coast of South Korea including the fishing town of Jukbian and the historic city of Gyeongju. We met quite a few Singaporeans also holidaying in Korea, including a family of Singaporeans on top of Mount Seorak! Of course, Korean food is another major draw for Singaporeans. In fact, Korean food has become very much a part of Singapore’s own multicultural food scene. There are fine dining Korean restaurants, but also very affordable informal Korean food sold at hawker centres, accessible and affordable to all Singaporeans. I am also glad that some well-known Singaporean restaurants and outlets have brought Singapore cuisine, including chilli crab and kaya toast, to Seoul too. I am confident that with the expansion of our bilateral Air Services Agreement will result in many more Singaporeans visiting Korea and vice versa.

I have not had the chance to see much of Korea on this trip. but yesterday afternoon, I took a walk in Ewha University. I saw their beautiful new building where they have seamlessly integrated the campus centre with the natural hilly topography and built over a railway line in order to construct the central plaza for the university. Over the next few days, I plan to visit Gyeongui Line Forest Park, and Seoullo 7017, to see how you have creatively reclaimed and beautified city spaces for your citizens. In Singapore, we too are reclaiming, redesigning and repurposing urban space to improve it and keep it up to date while preserving our cultural heritage and shared memories.

Singapore and Korea will celebrate the 45th anniversary of our diplomatic relations next year. With the support of President Moon and our friends in the ROK, I am confident that our bilateral ties will rise to new levels.

President Moon, First Lady Kim, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to: the good health and happiness of the President and First Lady; Enduring friendship between our countries; and success of the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit next week in Busan.

Gon-bae! Thank you.