“New Zealand continues to stand with South Korea”. When New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says “stands with,” he is signifying the key element to the positive diplomatic relations between New Zealand and South Korea that have existed for fifty years: New Zealand standing ‘side by side’ with South Korea. He emphasises that New Zealanders do not stand higher than Koreans or over them as an insignificant racial group, but instead, he defines the fifty-year long diplomatic friendship as one of equality and unity, with mutual respect between Kiwis and Koreans.
Commerce has always been essential to maintaining the diplomatic alliance between New Zealand and its fifth largest trading partner, South Korea. New Zealand exports products such as dairy, beef, fruit and seafood, and imports cars, electronic goods and machinery from South Korea. Both countries have mutually benefited from this successful trading developed over the last five decades, with advantages to natives and foreigners in South Korea as well as New Zealand.
The diplomatic relationship between these two countries, is no longer merely a window for safe trading, but is now considered a stable friendship whereby – according to South Korean Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister, Kwang-shik Choe – “peoples are freely travelling back and forth, becoming friends in the genuine sense. ” The exchanges between Kiwis and Koreans across the Pacific Ocean have also been greatly expanded, allowing both countries to establish new campaigns such as student exchange and working holiday visas. So, what now?
How can we improve our relationship even further? As they say, communication is a “two-way street. ” In order to maintain and advance the friendship between New Zealand and South Korea, both cultures need to be open-minded and welcoming. This can be accomplished in several ways, for example by integrating schools and commercialising Korean entertainment here in New Zealand. This integration is important because it will strengthen the sense of ‘standing with’ one another, as Koreans embrace their assimilation into Kiwi life.
I believe New Zealand can improve diplomatic relations and embrace the Korean culture more fully by offering Korean language as a school subject. New Zealand offers countless educational opportunities, both academic and social, to a diverse range of multicultural students. It is thus common for schools to offer languages such as French, German and Japanese. However, most New Zealand schools do not offer Korean. Because New Zealand’s second largest source of foreign students and sixth largest source f overseas visitors is South Korea, we ought to offer students the chance to study the Korean language and culture within our schools. In this way we will afford the 32,000 Koreans in New Zealand the chance to feel accepted by the Kiwi community as well as allowing Kiwis to gain a deeper understanding of their Korean neighbours, embrace their culture and learn their native language. Every year, hundreds of young Korean students are sent to New Zealand to improve their English.
Once Kiwis no longer see the collective Asian races as one, but instead embrace Koreans as distinct individuals, our international students will stop isolating themselves and only mixing with “their own kind”. I believe that when New Zealand schools offer language programmes and student exchanges, both Koreans and Kiwis will make huge strides towards social integration and will stand side by side as equals, as John Key envisions. The saying “music unites the world” is completely true in regards to the relationship between New Zealanders and South Koreans.
I believe that diplomatic relations between our countries will further improve when New Zealanders fully embrace Korean entertainment. Recently, the Hallyu wave has crashed onto our native sands and left a deep imprint on the hearts of Kiwis. Korean artists like Super Junior, U kiss, EXO, and Infinite etc. unknowingly promote themselves in New Zealand, and are loved by thousands of fans all over the country. The New Zealand Summer Kpop festival brings people who love the Korean culture, food, music and film, together in the one thing that unites us all – Korean Pop.
When Kpop is fully commercialized on local radio and television, the astounding talent of SM, JYPE and Mnet, for example: IU, Yesung (Super Junior) and Dong Bang Shin Ki, will be enjoyed by all Kiwis. No longer will fans feel rejected or be accused of having an “Asian fetish” if they prefer non-English music. I believe that radio stations like ZM and The Edge should promote Kpop daily so that Kiwis and Koreans can be exposed to both cultures, instead of isolating the Korean community by creating a separate Korean radio station.
Also, Korean bands should play at Big Day Out along with the other nationalities that express their patriotism by their live performances. Music allows people to leap over language barriers. Therefore, in order to promote cultural relations with South Korea, it is important for Korean and Kiwi music to inter-weave equally at all levels, without prejudice, enabling us all to enjoy something familiar while learning about something completely different.
I believe that the long-standing friendship between South Korea and New Zealand is strengthening and developing, as indicated by the figures of exchanges between the trading industry and the social advances to date. Above all, I believe Koreans need to be acknowledged into the community – not identified by race, but by their character and the cultural and life lessons that they bring with them across the Pacific Ocean.
I believe that if New Zealanders truly ‘stand with’ their Korean friends and neighbours, more open to embracing each other’s cultural uniqueness and overcoming the language barrier; our nations can prosper and deepen the existing friendship. As a beginner learner of Korean, a lover of Kpop, cuisine and dramas, I intend to “stand with South Korea,” in hopes of bringing the two nations together and continuing the strong friendship for another 50 years.