The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Korean President – 5 March 1996

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with the Korean President, Mr Kim Young-Sam, in Seoul on Tuesday 5th March 1996.


Along with all the people of the Republic of Korea, I whole-heartedly welcome Prime Minister John Major, who is honouring us with his first visit to our country. Prime Minister Major and I have sought to develop relations between Korea and the United Kingdom into a practical partnership by holding official talks no less than 3 times in the past year. I believe that Prime Minister Major’s current visit to our country will provide the catalyst for raising the level of our friendly cooperative relationship still higher.

At today’s meeting we have exchanged constructive opinions on the situation on the Korean Peninsular, including developments in Northern Korea, and discussed ways to-strengthen practical bilateral cooperation. We have agreed that peace and stability on the Korean Peninsular are very important for the peace, not only for the Asia Pacific Region, but also of the world. We have also agreed that inter-Korean issues should be resolved through dialogue between South and North Korea themselves with the understanding and cooperation of the nations surrounding the Peninsular.

Prime Minister Major has also assured us that the United Kingdom will consult closely with us, including the matter of British direct participation in the KEDO process and for the settlement of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsular. We have noted with satisfaction that the plans for industrial and technological cooperation, that we agreed upon when I visited Britain in March last year, are being carried out smoothly. We have agreed to further develop our bilateral relations through practical cooperation in the economic and trade sectors and active exchanges of personnel. In particular we have decided to further strengthen our friendly ties by holding those cultural events in each other’s country and expanding cultural exchanges in 1997, next year, which happens to be the 200th anniversary of the first contact between our two countries. We have also agreed to closely consult with each other in international arenas, including the United Nations where we are both members of the Security Council.

In addition, we have decided that the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea would also help each other in our common efforts to lead partnership between Asia and Europe as the host of the second and third Asia-Europe meeting respectively. We have agreed to establish a joint working committee between Korea and the UK to successfully prepare for this ASEM meeting.

The Prime Minister and I agreed that cooperation between the UK and the Republic of Korea could become the driving force, not only for the development of both our countries, but also for the prosperity of the rest of the world in the 21st century.

I am firmly convinced that Prime Minister Major’s visit has provided an important opportunity to strengthen our mutually complementary partnership and create a more mature relationship.


Mr President, thank you. Let me just say a few further words about our discussions this morning. This may be my first visit to the Republic of Korea, but I seem to be meeting a good friend, for we have met on a number of occasions in the last 12 months or so. This morning I have met the leaders of government, later on today I shall meet the leaders of industry.

I will not reiterate all the points made by the President except to agree with what he had to say. But there are one or two things I think it would be useful to add. In recent years the cooperation in trade, in commerce and in politics between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea has grown dramatically. This is reflected most evidently in the eyes of most people by the degree of trade between Korea and the United Kingdom, and the degree of investment by the United Kingdom in Korea, and by Korea in the United Kingdom. The growth is impressive. Nearly a 60 percent increase in bilateral trade to over 5 billion dollars in the past year. There have been 8 announcements of new Korean investments in the United Kingdom, including 3 more to be announced later today. There has been a 27 percent increase in visitors between the two countries. The number of Korean students attending British universities has risen by over 20 percent in each of the last 2 years. And there has been tremendous progress under the industrial cooperation arrangement and in collaboration on science and technology matters.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, This cooperation has extended to political and diplomatic matters as well. The President mentioned the ASEM summit, cooperation over KEDO and the United Nations, other examples could be given. I was very pleased to welcome the President to the United Kingdom last year and I am delighted to be able to visit Korea on this occasion.

I would just end with one final thought. It is true that the relationship in all aspects has grown tremendously in the past few years, but it is the President’s belief, and it is my belief, that it will grow even more in the years that lie ahead. And our meeting today is a further staging post upon that improvement. And the President and I look forward to continuing our discussion over luncheon shortly.


I would like to ask a question to Prime Minister John Major with regard to British policy towards North Korea. We understand that right now several British companies are making joint investment into North Korea, including in the banking sector, and that the North Korean side it seems is interested in entering into some economic relationship with Britain. I would like to know what is the current British government’s policy and prospects with regard towards North Korea? And the other question is on British support of Korea bidding for the 2000 World Cup. We all know that Britain is a strong country with a strong tradition in the football game and it would be very nice if Britain could lend support to our bidding effort and what is your own opinion?


Let me take the two points separately. On North Korea, I think the importance that we give to ensuring that the present government in North Korea behaves properly, was indicated very clearly by our support for KEDO. We were the first of the Europeans to provide positive cash support with KEDO to deal with the problems of the nuclear industry in the north. That was a matter of critical support to the Republic of Korea, we were the first of the Europeans to provide that support and have been encouraging our European partners to provide further support, and that has now been done at the communal expense of all the European countries. So we are very keen to ensure that North Korea is brought, as far as is practicable, into understanding that it must have a civilised relationship with the rest of the world, and in particular a civilised relationship with the Republic of Korea.

On the second point, in lighter moments of my discussion with the President, and also with the Prime Minister earlier this morning, we speculated upon the possibility of a Korea/England World Cup Final. The only point of disagreement between us was who might win the World Cup Final. This is a further matter that may continue over luncheon. As to the site for the finals, as you will know, that decision has to be made by FIFA and the representatives of FIFA are independent in their decision. But we do understand very carefully how important this is for Korea and we wish you well, and we will continue to wish you well until the World Cup Final, if indeed the United Kingdom or any of its teams – England perhaps – were to be there against Korea. And I look forward to watching it.



QUESTION (Mike Brunson, ITN):

Mr President, can you say why you think it is that your businessmen apparently prefer to invest in Britain rather than in say France or Germany or any other country in the rest of the European Union?


Well Korea has had this long relationship with Britain. As I mentioned, it has been about 200 years already since the first contact between the two countries. We Koreans do have a very favourable image of Britain, we have a very positive view of the country, so it is not a sudden relationship. The English-speaking environment is also a very favourable condition for Koreans to operate. And most importantly we do trust what the British side says through contracts and agreements and we have maintained an excellent partnership in all areas of our cooperation. On the government level there have been many Ministerial, Ambassadorial contacts and cooperation and the development of dialogue between our two countries has been excellent. From the business view-point, the domestic environment for investment in Britain is of course very favourable to Korean investors. So there is no question that the speed of the developing partnership between the two Koreas will increase in the future. We have already seen more than a 60 percent increase in the two-way trade between our two countries and the amount last year of the trade was more than 5 billion US dollars, more exactly 5.2 billion US dollars, last year. So we are very satisfied with the overall development between Korea and Britain.