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Hon. Yonah Martin: “Honourable Senators, as the international community struggles to emerge from a global recession, our Conservative Government is renewing and strengthening ties with our international trading partners as a means to sustained economic recovery.

“In recent weeks we have seen our Prime Minister working at the international level to end this global recession as he represented the interests of Canadians at the APEC Economic Leader’s meeting in Singapore; the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago; and during his visits to India, China and most recently South Korea.

“Honourable Senators, I had the opportunity to join with Prime Minister Harper on his historic visit to South Korea.  He’s not the first Canadian prime minister to visit - two former Prime Ministers visited before him, namely Brian Mulroney in 1986; then Jean Chretien in 1997. It is most fitting to also honour our recently departed colleague, the Honourable Marcel Prud-homme, whose role in co-establishing the Canada Korea Inter-Parliamentary Association with the Honourable Bob Coates in the late 1970's allowed me and Member of Parliament, Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House, Barry Devolin to sit alongside our Prime Minister in Seoul as co-chairs of the same association some thirty years after its inception.

“What's historic about our Prime Minister’s recent visit is that on December 7, 2009, he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. In his historic speech, the Prime Minister highlighted our past, present, and future relations. Hearing our PM's address so eloquently delivered in French and English; and hearing the Speaker of the National Assembly so warmly welcome all of us in my native Korean language was music to my ears.

“Canada and Korea share a deep friendship based on strong historical connections, direct links between our peoples and cooperation on many global issues. Prime Minister Harper used his time in Korea to renew Canada’s commitment to strengthening relations between our two nations. In 2010 Canada and Korea will co-chair the G-20 Summits. Together our countries are taking on a leadership role as we host the international community at the world’s preeminent forum for economic cooperation. Prime Minister Harper and Korean President Lee Myung-bak are already working closely together and with the international community to ensure the coming year is one of economic renewal.

“Honorable senators, I wish to share with you one of the most meaningful moments of the trip for me. On the morning of December 7th, we visited the De-militarized Zone (DMZ) at the 38th parallel that divides the once united country of Korea into North and South. Inside one of the buildings (no larger than a one-car garage) in which negotiations between North and South have taken place, there is a table positioned horizontally in the middle of the room. When I walked around the table to the other side, I found myself in North Korea for the first time in my life.

“North Korea, the place of my father's birth, which he fled in the middle of the night to escape the communist invasion, leaving behind his mother and 9-month pregnant sister and most of his worldly possessions. North Korea, where he first learned English (which would later inspire him to earn his undergraduate degree in Shakespearean Literature and his Master's in North America). North Korea, whose ruthless regime he despised, which he longed for only in his dreams but eluded him in life. My tears flowed as I set foot in North Korea, an unimaginable reality for my father who passed away in March of 2008. 

“Honorable Senators, today in this historic upper chamber of our blessed Canada, I share this personal experience with you with sincere gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy in our nation; with hope for peace on the Korean peninsula, and recovery around the world. 

“Thank you. Je vous remercie. Gum-sa-hum-nee-da.”

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