NATIONAL

Turkey marks republican anniversary

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Nov 3, 2015 - 18:15
  • Updated : Nov 3, 2015 - 18:17
At its 92nd republic anniversary last week, Turkey drew on inspirations from the past to confront present and future challenges.

The holiday, which falls on Oct. 29, marks the birth of a democratic, secular and constitutional Republic of Turkey, following the victorious war of independence (1919-23) that repelled the Allies of World War I.

“The Republic of Turkey is a source of hope for not only its own citizens, but all the victims, oppressed, kin and brother communities in our region and the world,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a message that was read at the National Day reception Thursday.

Referring to a call by the first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, he added, “It is our common duty to safeguard our nation and its common edifice, and to struggle for the future by making the necessary sacrifice.”

Turkish Ambassador Arslan Hakan Okcal (right) speaks at the 92nd Republican anniversary reception at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Thursday, beside Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Ui-hwa. (Nas Communications)

The venue at Lotte Hotel in Seoul drew more than 500 guests, including Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Ui-hwa and Patriots and Veterans Affairs Minister Park Sung-choon, among other diplomats, businesspersons and citizens of Turkey and Korea.

Turkish Ambassador Arslan Hakan Okcal highlighted that his country had assumed moral leadership on the world stage by accepting over 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq ― more than any other country.

Ankara vowed to accommodate these displaced persons with expectations the conflicts would swiftly end and they would safely return home. However, as the wars have dragged on and been inflamed by American and Russian interventions, it has forced the government to spend more than $6.5 billion in humanitarian assistance.

“Let me stress that during the past five years of war in Syria, Turkey has unilaterally shouldered the economic and social burden of these migrants,” Okcal said. “I hope that the current awareness will serve as a wakeup call to address the conflicts’ root causes.”

Pointing to Turkey’s G20 presidency at a summit this year in the picturesque Mediterranean city of Antalya on Nov. 15-16, the ambassador expressed high hopes regarding President Park Geun-hye’s participation.

Okcal also underscored the growing partnership Turkey and Korea are harnessing through the informal multilateral platform, MIKTA, along with Mexico, Indonesia and Australia.

“As a rapidly evolving platform, MIKTA has a real potential to be a ‘force for good’ in global affairs,” Okcal emphasized. “It is based on our common interest in strengthening multilateralism, fostering worldwide stability and prosperity and facilitating creative solutions for regional and global challenges.”

Analysts note that the two countries’ dual memberships in MIKTA and G20 reinforce their strategic objectives, especially in a multipolar global order where middle power and soft power diplomacy ― known for its adroit, flexible and pragmatic modus operandi ― are favored. 

Ambassadors pose for cake-cutting. (Nas Communications)

Ankara and Seoul are Strategic Partners with $8 billion in bilateral trade and investment that is surging after the free trade agreement went into effect in May 2013.

People-to-people exchanges saw marked increases, with Turks drawn by Korean pop culture and Koreans attracted to Turkey’s tourism jewels. Taking the three direct flights between Istanbul and Seoul daily, 250,000 Koreans traveled to Turkey last year, the largest number of tourists from Asia.

Rep. Chung conveyed Korea’s gratitude for Turkey’s sacrifice during the Korean War (1950-53), where 21,000 Turkish troops fought, 1,000 died and 1,400 were injured as part of the United Nations Forces.

“Turkey and Korea are indeed ‘blood-sealed brothers,’ or ‘Kandardesh’ in Turkish,” the parliamentarian said in a speech. “In my opinion, how young Koreans, who have neither been to Turkey nor known it well, call it a ‘brother country,’ is proof of our evolving fraternal DNA.”

Both peoples speak languages belonging to the Ural-Altaic family, and venerate hospitality toward guests and filial piety toward elders, he noted.

“However, we should not simply remain ‘brothers of yesterday,’” Chung stressed. “Our nations must progress as ‘brothers of tomorrow,’ from our unshakable foundations that were shaped from our tumultuous histories.”

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)