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Amb. Thomas C. Hubbard Addresses The Asia Foundation on the Occasion of its 50th Anniversary Celebrations, 2003

Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Remarks at the Shilla Hotel
October 14, 2003

Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Remarks at the Shilla Hotel
Seoul, Korea
October 14, 2003

Thank you, Ms. Chung, for that kind introduction. Ambassador Lee Hong Koo, Prime Minister Goh Kun, members of The Asia Foundation, distinguished guests: It is a great pleasure to be here with you today. Let me begin by congratulating Will Ball, Bill Fuller, Scott Snyder and all those associated with The Asia Foundation team, past, present and future, for your continual work to help promote civil society in Korea and for your overall contribution toward close relations between the United States and all the countries of Asia. The Foundation’s tireless efforts to build bridges of understanding and avenues for constructive dialogue have had a deep impact on U.S. relations with the countries of this region.

It seems fitting that the Asia Foundation chose to celebrate its 50th anniversary in Korea, where the U.S.-Korea alliance also was born 50 years ago. Today we know that the Republic of Korea’s remarkable energy, combined with the continuing deterrence provided by our alliance, gives this nation a solid foundation for prosperity and security.

But 50 years ago, it was not a given that the impoverished, war-weary Korea with which we signed the Mutual Security Treaty would become the world’s 12th-largest economy, let alone a democratic example for the region. Koreans worked hard to get where they are today. But the Asia Foundation was a particularly important partner in fostering Korea’s development through its support for an open society and institutions that promote equality, democracy, education, human rights, and constructive economic growth.

The many events marking the 50th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty recall the importance of the U.S. military alliance and our support of Korea’s growth, as well as the tremendous energy of the Korean people working to achieve a thriving economy, and, eventually, a dynamic democracy. Our alliance has always been far more than just a military partnership. Indeed, the past fifty years have seen Koreans and Americans form not only a political and economic bond, but also a true friendship between the peoples of our two nations.

Just as the governments of the U.S. and Korea worked together to enable an impressive nation to emerge -- a flourishing, prosperous, and secure South Korea -- so has The Asia Foundation developed programs, where governments themselves cannot go, to work together with the Korean people. Now, in order to meet the needs of this changing time, the focus of The Asia Foundation is also changing to address non-traditional challenges, such as human trafficking and intellectual property rights. The goal of The Asia Foundation -- to support local institutions so that the Asia Pacific region can flourish along its own path to freedom and success -- has been successfully demonstrated here in Korea for the past 50 years. In fact, I urge those young Koreans who tend to associate America with past failures of democracy in Korea to take a look at the work of the Asia Foundation during those years.

The Asia Foundation has always supported the free exchange of ideas. In Korea, one of The Asia Foundation’s very first grants provided for the importation of thousands of tons of newsprint and offset paper. This paper was used to print periodicals and books, ranging from intellectual journals to one of the most comprehensive Korean dictionaries of its time. Currently, The Asia Foundation continues to support the free exchange of ideas by organizing programs to facilitate debate on a wide range of issues. The role of the media in Korea, the welfare state and health care policy, and a discussion of NGOs in international cooperation and development, were just a few of the topics explored this year in The Asia Foundation's conferences and seminars.

The Asia Foundation also has been an advocate of good governance and political reform in Korea for the past five decades. From the 70s -- the time of the reflourishing of the women’s movement in America --The Asia Foundation has served as a catalyst for changing attitudes about women in Korea, as evidenced by the growing number of women in leadership positions in Korea today.

During my career, I have personally witnessed the work of The Asia Foundation, in Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines, as well as in Korea. The Foundation’s 50 years of work has provided the impetus for a great deal of positive change throughout the region. Since its inception, the Foundation’s work has ranged widely -- from a “Seeds for Democracy” program that sent seed packets to farmers throughout the Philippines after World War II to current support for discussion in Japan on the use of textbooks to project a specific perception of history-- to the expansion of “Books for Asia” into North Korea, which distributed more than 20,000 books and journals to selected institutions in the D.P.R.K.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our alliance, and the 50th anniversary of The Asia Foundation, I’d like to urge the Foundation to keep up its good work on behalf of mutual understanding -- here and elsewhere in the region.

Today the U.S. and Korea are indeed on the eve of a new era, and new challenges and uncertainties await us. But we enter this era as friends, and with that friendship -- and the untiring efforts of The Asia Foundation that fosters the marvelous dynamism of the U.S.-R.O.K. partnership -- there is no challenge that we cannot overcome. I am pleased to congratulate The Asia Foundation on the past 50 years of successful achievement and to wish you all the best as we move into the future together. Thank you.

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