Annual Reception, House of Commons, 24 October 2019

Written by: Ian Simm  |  Posted on: October 30th, 2019

The BKS annual reception was held in the House of Commons Terrace Pavilion on the evening of Thursday 24 October, attended by some 85 members, guests and others interested in Korea.

BKS Chairman, Martin Uden, opens the proceedings

The event was hosted by Sir Ed Davey MP, Chair of the All-party Parliamentary Committee on the Republic of Korea.  As usual, the reception was preceded by a tour of the Houses of Parliament for a substantial number of attendees.

BKS Chairman Martin Uden outlined the programme for the evening, and introduced the speakers – Sir Ed Davey himself, Heather Wheeler MP, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Asia and Pacific, and ROK Ambassador HE Enna Park.  He took the opportunity to thank Asiana for their gift of a raffle prize of two business class return trips to Korea; to KOCHAM for their financial support for the evening; and to Samsung for their invaluable continuing sponsorship.

Sir Ed Davey MP

Amused by Martin’s description of him as a ‘long standing chair’, Sir Ed Davey said he had become part of the furniture. In a more serious vein, he noted that he represents the largest Korean community in Europe as an MP. He spoke of the strength of the BKS in supporting UK-Korea relations, and thanked Sylvia Park for her work in arranging the annual reception.

While seeming grateful for the opportunity not to talk about Britain’s exit from the EU, Sir Ed noted that while to UK observers the politics of Korea might seem complex, that perhaps paled into simplicity compared with the UK at present.   But most importantly, the friendship between our two countries is strong and becoming stronger. He recalled that when he was a Minister the EU-ROK free trade agreement had been signed, and now a new agreement had been finalised to take effect once the UK has left the EU.  This too is a sign of the close partnership between us: whatever the political climate, he believed that the UK and ROK would continue to work closely together.

Heather Wheeler MP

Minister Heather Wheeler, who visited Korea in September, thanked all concerned for putting on the reception.  She said that there were 3 pillars to the UK-ROK partnership. Trade relations were booming, volume having doubled in recent times to some £14 billion annually.  The UK and ROK have established a formal economic dialogue, which is the first for the UK in Asia. The Minister was particularly pleased about the popularity of Denby pottery in Korea as it is produced near her home, but also noted the success of Korean firms in the UK as evidenced by British popularity of Korean mobile phones and cars.

In security, the two countries have a range of shared interests.  Speaking of British Korean war veterans, Ms Wheeler said that Britain and Korea still, as 70 years ago, stand together to ensure peace and – now – the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Thirdly, the Minister referred to the closeness of people to people contacts and shared interests in culture, as exemplified by recent awards for the Korean film House of Hummingbird, the Korean band BTS filling Wembley stadium and the success of Son Heung-min with Tottenham Hotspur.  The recent changes in visa rules to allow easier entry for Koreans to the UK, the 40,000 British Korean population and the 10,000 British people living in Korea were further evidence of the close links between our peoples, in which the BKS also plays its part.  Ms Wheeler concluded that ‘there are no limits to what the UK and Korea can achieve together’.

ROK Ambassador HE Enna Park

Ambassador Park thanked Martin Uden and Sir Ed Davey, the latter in particular for his ‘commitment to the Korean community’.  She described Minister Wheeler as a ‘very important person’ for Korea.  Her first year as Ambassador had flown by.   As all Ambassadors must, she has been ambitious in developing the bilateral relationship.   The Ambassador noted that Koreans coming to UK can now use electronic entry gates, and she also noted the popularity of Korean arts and food in Britain.

The BKS plays a significant part as representing the friends of Korea in the UK, and Ambassador Park said she joined the society in being ambitious for it to achieve more in this area – she is confident that this will happen in the coming year, and committed her Embassy to working closely with BKS.

Yung Kil Ju, General Manager Asiana Airlines, presents the door prize to Vera Rhoden

Remembering that next year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean war, the Ambassador said that the sacrifices of UK troops in that conflict had been rewarded by the subsequent success of Korea in transforming itself into a modern nation.  Finally she wished to celebrate our common values – democracy, freedom, an open society and free trade – and said that BREXIT would make no difference to our partnership. Quoting a Korean saying, Ambassador Park concluded by noting that friendship was as precious as ‘gold and orchids’ (Guem lan ji gyo).

Following the addresses, participants continued to enjoy the opportunities for networking and conversation as well as the food and drink. Towards the end of the evening, the door prize – two business class return tickets London–Seoul – was won by Ms Vera Rhoden, a guest of BKS member Stephen Blagden.


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