A VISIT TO SOUTH KOREA BY THE FOREIGN MINISTER

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Fred Mitchell, the Foreign Minister, became the first Bahamian public official, to pay an official visit to South Korea when he landed in Seoul on Monday 28th November 2022.  Here is what he said in part when he spoke at the High Level Foreign Caricom/Korea: “ My visit then has come in the midst of the attack on Ukraine and the question is being asked around the world of all nations: ‘on whose side are you on?’ This visit, though largely to deal with Caricom matters, should signal I hope where The Bahamas is in the geo political line up.”

Here is the full address:

Statement by The Hon. Fred Mitchell MP

Minister of Foreign Affairs and The Public Service

Republic of Korea

Seoul

30 November 2022

Your Excellency, Minister Park Jin of the Republic of Korea, 

Excellencies, regional colleagues, guests, and to those watching these important deliberations this morning

On Behalf of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Honourable Phillip E. B. Davis, his Government, and the industrious people of The Bahamas, I dedicate my first words at the 12th High-Level Korea-Caribbean Forum, to thanking the Republic of Korea, it’s Government and wonderful people for hosting such a distinguished dialogue. 

Our former and late Governor General Arthur D Hanna in welcoming one of your Ambassadors to The Bahamas told him that our countries had something in common.  He said “ we are both nestled next to giants and we are only as independent as the giants allow”.  He spoke those words on the occasion of the presentation of credentials of your Ambassador.

I  never forgot those words and as I toured your palace museum yesterday, I was interested and absorbed in the many times that you have fought for your national independence and identity as  nations around you sought to dominate your national life.  You are once again free and sovereign.

As a small island developing state, I am sure that The Bahamas can take a lesson from you in the matter of maintaining your right to exist.

You are an island in some respects in a sea of troubles.

My visit then has come in the midst of the attack on Ukraine and the question is being asked around the world of all nations, on whose side are we on. This visit  though largely to deal with Caricom matters, should signal I hope where The Bahamas is in the geo political line up.

I thank you again for your kind invitation and I am only sorry that I will not be able to see the border to the north on this occasion.  I cannot say when I can come again but I hope that the next time whenever that might be, that I will be able to go there.

But let me wish your country peace and prosperity.

This is a rare but very welcome occasion. We are separated by more than 12,000 kilometres, a 14 hour time difference, and two oceans. However, the Republic of Korea, The Bahamas, and our Caribbean colleagues share enough in common to dwarf the distances that separate us. 

For example:

Both Korea and The Bahamas share proud sea-faring histories, and today much of their economies and trade are anchored in sea-based sectors like maritime transport. 

Both Korea and The Bahamas are high on the list of ships registered under our respective flags. The Bahamas ranks 6th in this category, and South Korea 18th

Both Korea and the Bahamas face daily threats to marine biodiversity. The most well-known form of this is poaching, however, ballast water from ships can be equally as damaging despite being unbeknownst to the public.

Both Korea and the Bahamas have made serious commitments to cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, but both share the unpleasant reality of fossil fuel dependency, with both countries currently generating more than 80% of our energy from this source. 

Finally, there is the matter of climate change, whose deleterious effects imperil human life and livelihood, as we have unfortunately seen with Hurricane Dorian, which gravely affected my country in 2019. I know that Korea has also faced down similar tragedies fomented by unbridled climate change. 

I know that our region shares the concerns of South Korea about climate change and embraces the ideas which seek to stop what seems the inexorable march to rising sea levels and warmer temperatures. Indeed I was quite surprised when I arrived here at how warm it is.

I am sure the region will work with you to enhance the work on climate change.

On a bilateral basis, I hope that we can deepen relations and that we will be able to appoint honorary consuls in each other’s countries before the end of next year.

I look forward to the visit to Busan and to see the potential that you have to offer the world at the proposed Expo site.


This intertwining of interests and history serves as the backdrop for our deliberations over the next few days. However, there is more than enough room for optimism, and this forum is proof of that. I am also sure that our regional colleagues will, in the coming days, add their insights into strengthening our maritime sectors and diminishing the effects of climate change. That is why events like this are so important. They show unity of purpose, of which both Korea and the Caribbean should be proud.

Thank you and God bless both our countries and regions.

End