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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hangin' with the Ambassador . . .

I'm not sure what I like best about going to the New Zealand Residence here in Seoul -- the fact that  Ambassador Patrick Rata and his staff are  so cool and so are the guests they invite, the grassy lawn outside the stunning residence, admiring the beautiful artworks, eating wonderful food including New Zealand lamb and green-lipped mussels (nom, nom, nom) or the fabulous N.Z. wines and Monteiths beers and ciders that are served in abundance.

If the price i have to pay is listening to and asking questions of a politician or two, some of whom are human and interesting, then writing a story for my work I don't get paid any extra for -- I can live with that.

Which is where I was yesterday, and the following is the result:

 SEOUL, Sept 7 (Yonhap) -- Adapting quickly to the speedy pace of life here in Seoul, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully fit a lot into his one-day visit to South Korea’s capital from Thursday.

Here to mark the Korea-New Zealand Year of Friendship, as the two countries celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties, McCully met with South Korean lawmakers, presented a plaque to actress and New Zealand Cultural Ambassador to Korea Ha Ji-won, gave media interviews, hosted a reception at the New Zealand Residence and had a late-night dinner with his counterpart, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, before leaving for home Friday morning.

Presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Murray McCullay, during the 2012 Korea-New Zealand Year of Friendship in recognition of the contribution made by Ha Ji-won in her role as New Zealand Cultural Ambassador promoting relations between the two countries.”
- the wording on Ha's plaque. Photo courtesy NZ Embassy

The trip followed a visit by Kim to New Zealand in August, during which the foreign ministers discussed progress on a free trade agreement, signed a new Antarctic Cooperation Agreement and shared a commitment to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

New Zealand service members were part of the United Nations contingent that assisted South Korea during the 1950-53 war with the North, and is an active part of the United Nations Command Armistice Commission that manages the Demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

“We are celebrating the warm bonds of friendship forged in the bonds of war,” McCully said at the Year of Friendship reception.

“At a time when golfing prodigy Lydia Ko has made LPGA history in Canada, I want to acknowledge the significant contribution Korean New Zealanders are making in all areas of New Zealand life,” he said. The minister was referring to South- Korean-born New Zealander Ko, who last month became the youngest winner on the LPGA tour at age 15.

Korea is New Zealand’s fifth-largest trading partner, second-largest source of international students and 1 percent of New Zealanders are of Korean descent, McCully said.

New Zealand Embassy sources said Friday McCully and the South Korean foreign minister continued their August discussion of regional topics during their dinner together the previous night.

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