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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1521


Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister) —by leave-I move:

That this House-

(1) expresses its profound sympathy at the loss of the lives of Ministers and officials of the Government of the Republic of Korea in the bomb explosion in Rangoon, Burma on Sunday 9 October;

(2) reaffirms its abhorrence of and opposition to terrorism;

(3) reaffirms its support for the people of the Republic of Korea and calls on all nations with interests and concerns in the Korean Peninsula to exercise restraint and moderation at this difficult time, and

(4) requests the Speaker to convey the terms of this resolution to the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.

Mr Speaker, last Saturday 8 October, President Chun Doo Hwan of the Republic of Korea set out from Seoul to visit Burma, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and Brunei. He was to arrive, together with a substantial entourage, in Perth next Sunday 16 October. He was to come to Canberra on 17 October and hold discussions with us on 18 October before visiting Sydney on 19 October and departing for New Zealand on 20 October. As a result of tragic circumstances, that visit has been postponed to another time.

At the beginning of President Chun's visit to Burma he was, on Sunday 10 October, to lay a wreath at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Rangoon. Because of heavy traffic the President arrived late at the ceremony. The accompanying party had gone ahead of him. A large and savage bomb explosion killed 19 members of the accompanying party. A large number were injured seriously. A number of Burmese nationals were also among the casualties and to their families our sympathy is also extended.

The members of the Korean official party who were killed included the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economic Planning Board, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, the Minister of Energy and Resources, the Secretary-General to the President of the ruling Democratic Justice Party, the Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Senior Secretary to the President for Economic Affairs and the Co-ordinator of the Overseas Co-operation Council. Those seriously injured included the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice-Minister of Finance.

The Governor-General and I have both sent messages of condolence to President Chun. On behalf of the Australian Government and people we have expressed deep shock in learning of the tragedy which befell President Chun's party in Rangoon. We have conveyed our condolences to the Government and people of the Republic of Korea and reaffirmed Australia's support for the Republic of Korea at this troubled time. We have asked President Chun to convey to the families of those who died our deep sympathy and we have wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

In these messages and also in my own statement and the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) on Sunday, we have pointed to the fact that a number of the people who died were known personally to us and other members of the Government and indeed, I believe, to many members of the Opposition. President Chun had embarked on this overseas tour as part of the Republic of Korea's broadening of its contacts with the region. We had welcomed the growing role of the Republic of Korea in the region's affairs and the growing significance of its links with Australia. Since our Government took office we have had close and productive contact with the Republic of Korea.

Before the visit planned for next week by President Chun there had been four high level visits between Australia and Korea since my Government took office. In May the Secretary-General to the President, Dr Hahm Pyong Choon, visited Australia. He called on me and several other Ministers. Dr Hahm has been for many years one of the most articulate spokesmen for the Republic of Korea. He was formerly, as honourable members would know, an ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States. Dr Hahm died in Rangoon. His death is recognised by us as a great loss to his country and he will be remembered with respect.

In July, Mr Speaker, you visited the Republic of Korea as the guest of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Chai Mun Shick. On that visit, you also met Dr Hahm and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Lee Bum Suk, as well as President Chun. Later that month, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, visited Seoul. He talked then with President Chun, with Dr Hahm, and with a number of others who died in Rangoon. He had extensive discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Lee Bum Suk. Mr Lee had a long and distinguished career in managing the foreign relations of the Republic of Korea. In particular , during the 1970s, he managed the Republic of Korea's policy towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the conduct of discussions with the DPRK. Mr Lee died in Rangoon.

At the end of August-six weeks ago-the annual round of ministerial trade talks between the Republic of Korea and Australia took place in Canberra. The leader of the Republic of Korea delegation was Mr Kim Dong Whie, Minister for Commerce and Industry. Mr Kim had had a distinguished career in the foreign service and was, until his appointment as Minister, permanent head of the Korean Foreign Ministry. Mr Kim also died in Rangoon. He will be remembered as a friend and a tough bargainer for his country and as a man of great enthusiasm and energy whose personal character contributed much to our relations.

Mr Suh Sang Chul, the Minister of Energy and Resources, had a particular connection with and affection for Australia and had many friends here. Until several years ago Mr Suh was the Republic of Korea's representative at the World Bank in Washington. Australia and the Republic of Korea are members of the same constituency in the World Bank and so Mr Suh for several years worked closely with the Australian representative at the bank. Mr Suh died in Rangoon.

Among the officials who died, Dr Kim Jae Ik stood out as an outstanding technocrat of great intellectual ability. He had become Senior Secretary to the President for Economic Affairs. He had been invited to Australia in his own right some time ago and only the assumption of high responsibilities had stopped him from coming earlier. He too had many friends in Australia.

I have mentioned these names to provide some indication of the depth of personal connections developed between Australia and the Republic of Korea at a very high level and to underscore the personal loss that we share. The Republic of Korea has lost a number of its most important leaders. These were men of intelligence and vigor, among the brightest and most open-minded of leaders in a society undergoing great changes. They will be difficult to replace. We had been looking forward to President Chun's visit in the expectation that it would contribute greatly to the growth of an already substantial and positive relationship. Australia has given consistent and principled support to the Republic of Korea for 35 years since its foundation in 1948.

Australians fought and died in the Korean War. In a continued environment of hostility on the peninsula since then, South Korea has been obliged to maintain very large armed forces and there have been difficulties and frustrations in the development of a more open political system. We nonetheless have remained confident, and continue to remain confident, that the basis for a strong, growing and beneficial relationship between our countries can be sustained.

The bomb explosion at the Martyrs' Mausoleum was a cruel blow. It has done nothing to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the problems of the Korean peninsula. It has deprived Korea of men of great experience and ability. No one can gain or draw satisfaction from this wanton act of terrorism. We can only hope that it will not irreversibly damage the cause of peace in an area where the balance of forces is otherwise so delicately poised. We convey to the Korean people our profound sympathy.

As a mark of our respect, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House will leave Australia tonight to represent the Government at the memorial service to honour the dead. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), who is currently leading the Australian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Seoul, will also attend the service. We would also urge all nations with interests in the Korean peninsula to exercise restraint. The cost of the losses suffered to Korea and to all those with an interest in peace is already too high. They should not now be added to or compounded. I commend the motion to the House.