Ms JODI McKAY ( Strathfield ) ( 12:19pm): I am pleased to speak on this motion that recognises the Republic of Korea's National Foundation Day. Around 6 per cent of my community are Korean Australians and they make an enormous contribution to the local community of Strathfield, in particular. In fact, South Korea is the fourth most common country of birth in my electorate and Korean is the fourth most common language spoken at home, behind English, Mandarin and Cantonese. One has only to walk the streets of the Strathfield town centre to see the vibrancy that the Korean restaurants and shops bring to the area.
So significant is the Republic of Korea to Strathfield that a sister-city relationship has been established with Gapyeong, a county in Gyeonggi Province of South Korea. Recently I visited Gapyeong, which is an area well known for its natural beauty and for neighbouring the mountainous province of Gangwon. The famous Han River flows through the area. While nearby Seoul is a bustling city with high-rise buildings lining the skyline, Gapyeong is a much quieter and certainly a much more beautiful area. With more than 50 million people living in South Korea, the challenge is always to resist overdevelopment and preserve natural beauty where possible. Despite is relative closeness to Seoul, this is being achieved in Gapyeong.
The sister-city agreement between Gapyeong and Strathfield was signed in August 2011, marking 60 years since the end of the Korean War and the 50-year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and South Korea. During my trip to South Korea, I visited the Australia and New Zealand War Memorial to pay my respects to those Australians who died during the Korean War. Gapyeong is home to this important memorial that recognises the battle of Kapyong, which is one of the most significant and important battles for Australian troops in Korea. The Australian War Memorial records describe the battle in April 1951 when the Chinese launched their spring offensive with the aim of retaking the city of Seoul. Thirty-two Australians were killed and 53 were wounded in playing their part to stall the Chinese advance and prevent Seoul from falling into enemy hands. The contribution of Australian troops is certainly remembered in Gapyeong. I was pleased to lay a wreath at the memorial on behalf of the community of Strathfield.
The aim of my visit to South Korea was to gain a greater understanding of the culture and the issues that are important to my community. In recognising the Republic of Korea's National Foundation Day in this Parliament, I think it is important to reflect on what is important to the Korean Australian community and of course its connection to Australia, New South Wales and communities like mine in Strathfield. One of the issues is reunification with North Korea. In my conversations with leaders of the Korean community here, I am regularly reminded of their wish to see a united and peaceful Korea.
I also mention the issue of sexual slavery because this has become increasingly relevant to my community with the recent unveiling of a comfort woman statue in Strathfield. For the information of the House, I mention that comfort women were women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II. During my visit I also had the privilege of meeting with representatives of the Korean council for the women drafted for military sexual slavery by Japan. The women involved in this movement in Korea are thankful to the community leaders here who have sought to recognise the issue of sexual slavery with the establishment of a comfort woman statue in Strathfield.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the relationship between Korea and Australia is one of the strongest and most complementary economic relationships in the Asia-Pacific region, with almost $7 billion in trade conducted between the two countries. I think Australia has much to learn from Korea, with its focus on innovation and smart industries driven by companies such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG. Technological advances are celebrated and supported in Korea. The Korean culture is largely Confucian, and therefore values the concept of respect. I see this in the contribution made by my community, which is based on mutual regard, hard work and a deep faith.
In acknowledging the importance of National Foundation Day, I also recognise the many community groups who add to the cohesion and social fabric of my community. Groups such as the Australian Korean Welfare Association, the Korean Society of Sydney, the Strathfield Korean Business Association, the Korean Australian Young [KAY] Leaders and the Korea Australia Chamber of Commerce are regular and important contributors to my community. These groups support first-generation Korean Australians, who without their attention would be largely isolated by the barrier of language. They provide activities that connect Korean Australians with traditional Korean culture, and they support the commerce and business that add to the economy of New South Wales.
Importantly, KAY Leaders bring together young Korean Australians to support leadership initiatives, inspire role models and enhance participation in community life. Their mission is to empower Korean Australian young people to conceive and create for themselves, their families and their communities a brighter and more culturally rich future by together developing a greater voice in the broader Australian community. KAY Leaders recently hosted a forum where they invited representatives from Young Labor and Young Liberals to discuss political participation. It is initiatives such as these that I wish were replicated across culturally and linguistically diverse communities in New South Wales. In speaking to this motion, I also acknowledge the importance of the Korean Consul-General to Sydney. In my time as the member for Strathfield I have had the privilege of working with Consul-General Mr Whi Jin Lee and the current Consul-General, Mr Sangsoo Yoon. I thank them for their efforts to support Korean residents.
National Foundation Day is traditionally known as Gaecheonjeol, which translates as "Opening Sky Day" or "Festival of the Opening of Heaven". The day celebrates the formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon more than 4,000 years ago, which is regarded as the time when the Korean nation was founded. National Foundation Day is a national holiday in Korea and is recognised on 3 October. It is a day when families come together, work is forgotten and the Korean culture is celebrated. And there is much to celebrate. I consider myself fortunate to represent a significant Korean Australia community and to be their voice in this Parliament. I wish them a happy National Foundation Day. Haengbog gaecheonjeol.